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.
Leadership Fellows in the 2016-17 Cook Leadership Academy
Ollie Ajami – Legal Studies and Marketing
Ollie Ajami is seeking a Bachelors of Business Administration degree and is majoring in Legal Studies and Marketing at Grand Valley State University. Striving to push himself intellectually, Ollie applied and was admitted into the Frederick Meijer Honors College. He is entering his 4th year at Grand Valley State Univeristy. Ollie is native to Dearborn, Michigan, and was offered a scholarship to play football at GVSU. With his free time, Ollie enjoys reading books (preferably on a beach), traveling, hiking, and cooking. Ollie is passionate about influencing people to maximize their potential and chasing after their dreams. He believes that are two key elements to seeking success: 1) Be curious and 2) Find what it is you are passionate about and run with it. Among other extracurricular activities, Ollie exhibits his leadership qualities as President of the GVSU Law Society, and was voted by his teammates onto the Leadership Council for the 2016 GVSU football team. Upon graduating from Grand Valley State University, Ollie plans to attend law school. He hopes to pursue a legal career and eventually fund his own business venture.
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 – Masters of Business
Richa Bhurtel has been pursuing her MBA at GVSU since Fall 2015. Born and raised in the beautiful South Asian country Nepal, Richa loves exploring new opportunities and meeting new people. Her family is scattered through Nepal, US, New Zealand and Canada. She completed her undergraduate in Business Administration from University of Pune, India in 2013, where she was also the president for the Nepalese Student Association-Pune. She worked for two years as an adviser before deciding to pursue her Masters. She is currently working as a Graduate Assistant at the Dean’s office at Seidman College of Business. She is also the communications officer for the Graduate Student Association at GVSU for 2016-17. Through her MBA program, she hopes to enhance her professional attributes for a strong career in the field of business and management. Apart from that, Richa loves learning about new cultures and sharing her experiences of living in three different countries. She is excited to be a part of CLA and hopes to make the best of this opportunity.
Rachel Bills – Advertising & Public Relations and Communications
When Rachel isn’t in class or dabbling in the art of web development, social media management and graphic design, you can find her curled up with a good book and a hot cup of tea. Rachel is a fifth year senior at GVSU with a double major in Advertising/Public Relations and Communications. With a fierce passion for educating the world on social and environmental issues, Rachel is ready to graduate and make a difference in the world.
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 / DeVos Endowed Fellow
Sierra Bulson is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University. She will be graduating in April with a Bachelor of Science in political science along with minors in international relations and criminal justice. During her undergraduate career, Sierra has been blessed with many awesome opportunities. Sierra spent a semester abroad studying European politics and diplomacy at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and most recently lived in Washington, D.C. for a summer, working on Capitol Hill for Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) by day and studying foreign affairs and humanitarian law by night. Sierra currently serves as Vice President of Pi Sigma Alpha National Political Science Honor Society and as Parliamentarian and Scholarship Chair of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. She has received a handful of awards, including the “I am Grand Valley” Leadership Award and Paul B. Henry Congressional Fellowship, and is currently working at The Johnson Center for Philanthropy as an Agard Fellow in Community Philanthropy. In her free time, Sierra enjoys attending community events, learning new skills, and reading a good book or two.
Kristen Childs – International Relations and Geographic Information Systems / DeVos Endowed Fellow
Kristen is a nature-lover, life-long learner, and a budding polyglot. A senior at Grand Valley, she studies international relations and geographic information systems (GIS) and is 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 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. She recently put her GIS and German language skills to the test during a RISE summer internship in Erlangen, Germany, and is currently completing her last year of undergraduate as a David L. Boren Scholar in Slovenia, studying Geodesy, Geoinformation and the Slovene language at the University of Ljubljana. Her future career aspirations include a role in science communication to encourage the understanding of and interest in the intersection of environmental and human phenomenon. Kristen looks forward to learning through the Cook Leadership Academy how leaders choose to be bold, strive for success, and foster leadership in others. As a third year fellow, she is very grateful for the many opportunities that the Academy offers and encourages all students to take part in experiential learning beyond the classroom. 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 junior at Grand Valley State University and a member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. She is majoring in political science and minoring in Spanish and International Business. Last year, Micaela spent 10 months studying abroad in Ireland as a Barbara H. Padnos International Scholar. At Grand Valley, Micaela helps other students study abroad as a peer adviser in Grand Valley’s Padnos International Center. She is also a Resident Assistant for the Niemeyer Living and Learning Community. Micaela’s passions include good books, international travel, Scandinavian clothing and interior design, and talking about the US Constitution. 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 – Political Science
Terrell Couch is a fourth year student at Grand Valley State University studying Political Science with a minor in Philosophy. Throughout his collegiate career, Couch has found involvement to be his definition of a Laker. As the acting President of his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, Couch has been incredibly fortunate to see his first organization to a pivotal moment at the University. Thanks to the experiences within the brotherhood, Couch has gained knowledge in the area of philanthropy leading him to look towards a future of service and community building. Due to this mindset, Couch has had the privilege to serve on the Civil Discourse Advisory Board that works to understand the importance of dialogue even in a challenging climate like the one we are seeing currently. Along with this Couch has also been able to grow within several student organization to develop a student based, donor-advised fund for philanthropic good within the university—the Laker Children’s Fund. He has also spent time traveling the country through Alternative Breaks— to gain insights on issues and develop aspirations to promote good in the future, whether it be through law, philanthropy, or working with children. Couch hopes to have a future where he works with the community and gets his hands into the issues, giving back and helping the community that got him to where he is now.
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 – Biomedical Sciences
Megan Damico is a third year student studying Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Spanish. She aspires to study food science and sustainable agriculture in the future, with an emphasis that looks at how to better connect local foods to underserved communities. She is a co-president of the GVSU Beekeepers, secretary of the Farm Club, and works throughout the week as a writing consultant at the Frederick Meijer Center for Writers and Michigan Authors. Megan is from Livonia, MI and while she spent the summer living in Chicago for her internship with Windy City Harvest, she prefers the open air of West Michigan. During her summer, Megan worked in the South West suburbs of Chicago on a ¼ of an acre urban farm. As a community outreach intern, she interacted with community WIC clinics to host cooking demonstrations— in Spanish and English— to connect the families being served to the food given to them. The other aspect of her job was acting beekeeper of her farm and running a Veggie Rx program in the neighborhood health center. Megan is excited to be a part of the Cook Leadership Academy and to interact more within the Grand Rapids community and beyond.
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 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 and working at Good Life Ranch, the Sustainable Agriculture Project at GVSU, Baxter Community Center, Local First of West Michigan, the YMCA Farmers Market, Access of West Michigan, and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. As Dana enters her fourth 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 – Advertising and Public Relations
Jaclyn Ermoyan is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University, pursuing a major in advertising and public relations and minors in nonprofit administration and international relations. Jaclyn is passionate about Grand Valley and spends much of her time working at her campus jobs. You can find her tweeting or snapping for University Communications and for the Career Center, or serving as the clerical assistant to the executive secretary for University Development. Jaclyn’s interest in leadership started in high school marching band and has since led her to become the CEO of Grand Valley’s student-run public relations firm called GrandPR. One of the accomplishments she is most proud of is co-creating Humans of Grand Valley, an initiative started to share Laker experiences and to build a stronger community on campus. She is still learning about herself and her interests, so she is always looking for new ways to get involved, meet new people, and contribute her knowledge and experience to new projects. In the future, Jaclyn can see herself excelling in any job that allows her to make positive changes in the lives of others.
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.
Cullin Flynn – Spanish
Cullin was born in New Jersey and moved to Fowlerville, Michigan at a young age. As a fifth-year senior studying Spanish, it is only his third year in West Michigan; after two academic years abroad in Costa Rica and Mexico, Cullin next plans to complete a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany before beginning a master’s program in environmental science or geography. His passions include skateboarding, foraging for nutrient-dense foods, listening to podcasts and contemplating the Metaphors We Live By (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Cullin is extremely involved on the Allendale campus as a citizenship mentor, Resident Assistant and an active member of the GVSU Farm Club. To complement his two minors in applied linguistics and natural resources management, Cullin was awarded an SAP place-based grant to investigate the impact of volunteer tree planting on student attitudes toward experiential learning and knowledge of agriculture. Eventually, Cullin intends to begin a career in curriculum development or another field of education.
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.
Katie Gipe – English and Education
Originally from Clarkston, Michigan, Katie Gipe is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley, majoring in English, minoring in linguistics and pursuing a certification in elementary education. She hopes to teach English to non-native speakers, having a particular passion to teach abroad. This past summer she had her first experience abroad, going to Ghana through a faculty-led study abroad program for seven weeks. While in Ghana she worked at a shelter, teaching English and conducting art therapy activities to students who were rescued from labor trafficking in the local fishing industry. Working with the children was extremely humbling and sparked her desire to go abroad again after her graduation this April. She loves being involved on and off campus, having served as Vice President of Philanthropy and Service on the Panhellenic Executive Board, Grand Valley’s representative for Circle of Sisterhood (a non-profit committed to providing education to girls around the world), Volunteer Coordinator for Teachers of Tomorrow, and an active member of the Kappa Beta Chapter of Sigma Kappa. Her favorite role has been as an English tutor to multiple immigrants and refugees over the past two years, working with individuals from Guatemala, Syria, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the Congo. She also enjoyed meeting lots of new faces through her previous on-campus jobs as a Kirkhof building manager, consultant and staff manager at the Community Service Learning Center, and a resident assistant in Laker Village. She is currently teacher assisting in a fifth grade classroom in Grand Rapids Public Schools and absolutely loves working with her students. When she is not in the classroom, Katie loves dancing, car karaoke, time with friends, and going on camping trips with her family. She is extremely excited to be a part of the Cook Leadership Academy and is looking forward to opportunities to learn more about advocacy, education, effective leadership, and connecting with other fellows and community members involved with the CLA.
Emma Hahs – Cell and Molecular Biology
Emma Hahs is a second-year student at Grand Valley State University, studying Cell and Molecular Biology. She is from New Lenox, Illinois, a town located about 45 minutes southwest of Chicago. This dynamic young woman is passionate about leadership, and involved in numerous extracurricular activities at Grand Valley. Emma is one of 50 Student Senators that advocate for GVSU’s 25,000 student voices, president of the Science is Awesome Club, and Vice-President of Women in STEM Club. On the lighter side, Emma is an avid reader, plays piano, and loves spending time at the gym. She is a huge Harry Potter fan, although Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, and James Patterson can also be found in her litany of preferred authors. In what little free time Emma has, she likes to knit and watch TV dramas on Netflix; one of her favorites is Grey’s Anatomy.
One of Emma’s major ambitions is her research. Since October of her freshman year, she has worked in a genetics laboratory studying Parkinson’s Disease, Typhoid Fever, and Cerebral Palsy. Emma was recently a Student Summer Scholar, completing a research project funded by GVSU, with the intended purpose of delving deeper into the cause of Parkinson’s Disease and developing a potential treatment for the disease. Presently, she hopes to get her M.D./Ph.D. combined degree and become a Physician Scientist, developing a biotech company for prosthetics.
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 – International Business and Marketing
Lilia is currently a sophomore pursuing a double-major in International Business and Marketing as well as a minor in Japanese. Her inspiration of business came from Business Professionals of America. She participated in the program through her vocational school her senior year of high school. Earning first place out of five teams with her Small Business Management Team, they won the regional competition. Later, she and her team earned sixth place out of 20+ teams at the state competition. After graduating from Tri County High School, her path led her to Grand Valley. So far, she has been involved in the Laker Marching Band for two years as a member of the color guard. Since January, she has been working as a student employee at the Grand Valley State University Development Office. Next year, her plan is to study abroad in Japan for an entire year to gain experience, challenge herself, and continue her passion for the Japanese language and culture. Outside of classes, you’ll see Lilia writing music, playing her ukulele, cooking, running around campus, and spending quality time with her friends. As a new fellow of the Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy, she feels blessed to be part of a program that will help her grow in countless ways.
Andrew Hereza – Political Science and Public & Nonprofit Administration
Andrew Hereza is a senior double majoring in Political Science and Public & Nonprofit Administration with an emphasis in Local Economic Development. Throughout his collegiate tenure, Andrew has worked to improve the communities he cares about most. Currently, Andrew is a second-year Student Senator serving on the Educational Affairs Committee. His work with Student Senate has involved: serving on the University Student Evaluation of Teaching Initiative task force (which helped to improve and overhaul the end of the year evaluations that students fill out about their professors), serving on the Battle of the Valleys Steering Committee, working to promote Design Thinking on campus, and a whole host of other projects. His passion for Design Thinking led him to form the Design Thinking Collaborative, a student-run organization dedicated to providing a holistic Design Thinking presence on campus. Currently Andrew serves as the Executive for that organization. Andrew also serves on the cabinet of his Fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, as its Historian. In previous years, Andrew has served as the Scholarship Chairman of his Fraternity, he was the Treasurer of the Sigma Alpha Lambda honor society, and last year Andrew was nominated for the “I Am Grand Valley” award. He has also served as a Political Science tutor. Although Andrew doesn’t know where his life journey will take him yet, he does know that he wants to find ways to bridge the divide between the business, entrepreneurial, government, and nonprofit sectors to build sustainable, long-term, working relationships that will lead to better outputs for society. To start him on this journey, Andrew will attend law school after graduation. In his free time Andrew enjoys playing the drums. He has worked with several artists over the years and in the past was the drummer for two bands.
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 – Psychology and Criminal Justice
Chad Jackson is from Brown City— a small, rural community on the East side of Michigan surrounded by soybean fields. In high school, he demonstrated leadership as president of both his graduating class of 2013 and student council. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice with a minor in Juvenile Justice. Mr. Jackson is a senior and works in both the GVSU Psychology Department as a Teacher’s Assistant and the GVSU Admissions Office as an Ambassador. After completing his undergraduate studies, he plans on continuing his education by achieving his master’s degree in Rehabilitative Counseling. Mr. Jackson is the President of Grand Valley’s Criminal Justice Students’ Association, Pals Student Mentoring Program Volunteer Coordinator, Psi Chi Psychology International Honor Society Secretary, and an active member of Juvenile Justice Vision 20/20 organization. Mr. Jackson recently completed his year-round internship with the Ottawa County Trial Division and Friend of the Court where he was nominated Intern of the Year. Additionally, Mr. Jackson volunteered with the Ottawa County Adult Drug Treatment Court during summer 2016 as a research assistant, helping in the conduction of a cost-benefit analysis of the drug court. Mr. Jackson has been nominated for the “I am Grand Valley” Leadership Award twice, elected representative of Grand Valley’s 2016 Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, and has completed training sessions including General Civil Litigation Mediation and Youth Mental Health First Aid. Aside from academics, Mr. Jackson enjoys to volunteer and implement programming within the Grand Rapids community.
Yah-Sheba Jenkins – Accounting
Yah-Sheba is a senior pursing an accounting degree at the Seidman College of Business. Yah-Sheba is from a little island in the Caribbean known as St. Kitts, where she completed both elementary and high school. She then spent 2 ½ years in the education field as a business and computer teacher at her former high school. In her time spent as a teacher, she developed a passion for helping youth, especially those struggling to find their way.
Leaving St. Kitts, Yah-Sheba moved to New York City where she attended the City University of New York’s Bronx Community College. Upon completion of her Associates degree, she left NYC to start her Bachelor’s degree in accounting at Grand Valley State University. At GVSU, Yah-Sheba is preparing herself for a career as a Certified Public Accountant pursing top accounting firms in the country and participating in leadership and professional development programs. As a member of the GVSU family, she is also employed at the Padnos International Center as a Study Abroad Peer Advisor. There she engages with students to help them plan a study abroad experience.
Yah-Sheba is dedicated to learning more about the structures and elements that make society what it is – both the good and the bad – and the pattern of thinking she needs to develop in order to contribute a valid, thought provoking opinion that can lead to action and change. Alongside excitement for a career in business, she hopes to have a seat at any table fighting for the future of younger generations and against the issues disrupting and destroying society.
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 Kellogg – Social Work
Megan is a senior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Social Work. She is from Coopersville, Michigan and attended Central Michigan University for two years before realizing her mistake and moved back to the beautiful city of Grand Rapids to finish her education. She is currently interning through Kent County Department of Human Services through the Child Protective Services unit, and plans on pursuing a Public Administration degree in the near future. She has worked with prominent organizations in the area, such as Pine Rest, D.A Blodgett-St. Johns, YWCA, and interned with a homeless shelter in Washington D.C, all while staying a full time student in college. She hopes to make a difference in the community through passion and policy reform, and looks forward to helping people learn about all the wonderful opportunities and programs that Grand Rapids presents.
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 – Liberal Studies
Christopher “Pez” Lopez, originally from Saginaw, Michigan, is a third-year student pursuing a B.S. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in social change implementation in healthcare at Grand Valley, and is a member of the Frederik Meijer Honors College. Pez, a nickname given in 6th grade that proved to be resilient in both his social and professional life, almost dropped out of Grand Valley his first semester due to underestimating what it meant to be a first-generation college student. Determined by his failure, he took on leadership roles in various organizations; most notably, he stepped up to be the first President of Laker Familia, Grand Valley’s first Latina/Hispanic retention program, and Vice President of the Balanced Man Scholarship in his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon (SigEp).
Laker Familia has given him the opportunity to lay the foundation for— including all the mistakes and triumphs that come with the creation of—a student organization, through programming that seeks not only to acclimate Latinas/Hispanic on Grand Valley’s campus but inspire and invest in the greater Latina/Hispanic community. SigEp has given him the opportunity to travel to multiple regional and national level conferences that have developed him both as a leader and a professional. SigEp has afforded him the unique chance to oversee the development of an entire chapter: 72 brothers ranging from 1st years to 6th years, in creating the ideal balanced man.
Hoping to leave the GVSU campus better than he arrived, Pez remains active in his organizations, works in the Provost Office of Grand Valley, and serves as a Resident Assistant in Niemeyer Honors Housing. Pez plans to study abroad in Chile for his senior year and aims to create systemic change in the entire healthcare industry.
Emily Macauley – Biomedical Sciences
Emily is a senior at Grand Valley State University and a student in the Frederik Meijer Honors College. She was born in Gainesville, FL and has since lived in five states before settling down with her academic parents and four siblings in Grand Rapids, MI. She is a professional rider in the equestrian sport of eventing and spends most weekends competing along the east coast. Her first two years of college courses were spent mostly online while traveling the country to qualify and compete in the 2013 Junior Olympics, at which she earned the team silver medal. During this time, she also managed to begin the Pre-Professional Club at Muskegon Community College, as well as be an anatomy tutor and founding member of the Student Government. She currently studies levodopa-induced dyskinesias in the Steece-Collier translational research lab at Michigan State University and has completed previous research in the field of Speech Hippotherapy. In her free time, she also works overnights as an emergency room medical scribe. Emily spent the summer of 2015 in Ghana volunteering in multiple hospitals and discovering her international medicine interests. She is planning on beginning medical school fall of 2017 in order to pursue a career in surgery as well as begin making steps towards becoming a leader in international medicine. She hopes to improve the standard of care and accessibility of health care in developing countries through research and leadership roles in various organizations. Emily loves to go on morning runs with her two rescue dogs and you will always see her with a large coffee mug in her hand. She is excited to develop her professional leadership and networking skills through the Cook Leadership Academy over the next year!
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.
Austin McNeal – Marketing
Austin McNeal is a senior at Grand Valley State University pursuing a degree in Marketing with a minor in Nonprofit Administration. Raised in Greenville, Michigan, Austin began exploring leadership opportunities while attending Greenville High School, having held numerous leadership positions in a number of school organizations. 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 Seidman College of Business. He is a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, has served as a small group leader in the Honors College, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, American Marketing Association, and Beta Gamma Sigma— an international business honor society. Austin is a two-time “I Am Grand Valley” recipient and has made the Dean’s List every semester. Since May 2016, Austin has been a Specialty & Consumer Marketing Intern at Herman Miller in Holland, MI. While life after college is a little foggy (and quickly approaching in December!), Austin knows that whatever the future holds, he is sure the skills and knowledge gained during his time with the Cook Leadership Academy will serve him well in his future endeavors of leading and serving others.
Nhu Nguyen – Biomedical Science
Nhu is a junior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Chemistry. She was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States in 2008 with her family. As a biomedical sciences major, Nhu’s dream is to become a doctor who travels to disadvantaged areas around the world where medical treatments are limited and needed most. Nhu recently studied abroad in Ghana, where she lived the preview of her dream. There, she got the chance to do rotations at four different hospitals where she shadowed physicians and had the opportunity to learn about the Ghanaian health system. Nhu enjoys being an active member of the Pre-Med Club, a chemistry tutor, a Resident Assistant at Laker Village Living Community, a standardized patient for the GV Standardized Patient Program, and a volunteer at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital. Nhu is thrilled to be a part of the Cook Leadership Academy this year and hopes to learn more about her leadership style as well as more ways she can inspire and enrich the lives of those around her.
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 graduating this December with a major in Hospitality and Tourism Management. During her college career Alicia has had many opportunities to gain real life experience in her field of Hospitality. Some of these including: interning for the West Michigan Wedding Association, working the Cannes Film festival in France and the Final Four, and more. Alicia has a passion for diversity and culture and has displayed this by being in various cultural organizations on campus including, Latino Student Union, You Beautiful Black Women, the Cultural Council Funding Board, GVSU First, and the only multicultural sorority– Sigma Lambda Gamma. Her plans for the future include lots of travel— as she purses a career focused on the tourism side of her industry and explores opportunities to expand her horizons—to experience new cultures, and see every place in the world she possibly can!
Rachel Paris – Allied Health Sciences
Rachel is a senior at Grand Valley State University pursuing a degree in Allied Health Sciences. After graduation in April 2017, she will be taking a gap year and applying to graduate school for her Master in Public Health. Rachel is a Student Assistant at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy which has shaped her passions for philanthropy and the non-profit sector. 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 on campus involvements include being President of the National Resident Hall Honorary. She has enjoyed her time at Grand Valley thus far, since she has been able to meet a variety of people and build lasting friendships. In her spare time, you can find Rachel running, serving others, and building relationships with her buddies. She is excited to be returning as a second year fellow member of the Cook Leadership Academy and being able to continue building her leadership in the Grand Rapids community.
Elena Ongaro – Clinical Exercise Science and Allied Health Sciences
Elena is an Arizonan turned Michigander, proudly calling Harbor Springs, Michigan her hometown. She is in her senior year at Grand Valley State University pursuing a dual major in Clinical Exercise Science and Allied Health Sciences with an emphasis in physician assistant studies. During her undergraduate career, Elena has remained engaged in campus and community involvement. She has served on both the cabinet and executive board of Phi Mu Fraternity and has also served two terms on the Pre-Physician Assistant Club executive board until becoming President from 2014-2015. Elena’s passions extend past practicing medicine, and include working toward resolving medical and non-medical disparities, specifically those that contribute to inequity in patient accessibility to healthcare. She hopes to take full advantage of the CLA by learning how other fellows approach advocacy, activism, and initiating positive change. On a more personal note, Elena appreciates all-things fitness, large dogs who think they’re lap dogs, and gourmet donuts with strong coffee.
Matthew Oudbier – Philosophy
As a Grand Rapids native, Matthew enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school in 2004. He served with 1st Stinger Battery in Okinawa Japan for two years, then he deployed to Iraq with 2nd Battalion 5th Marines in 2007, and then again to Iraq and Afghanistan with 1st ANGLICO between 2008 and 2012. Currently Matthew is studying as a philosophy major at Grand Valley State University, with plans to attend graduate school in 2017 to continue studying political and moral philosophy. Matthew is the President of the GVSU chapter of Student Veterans of America, he also manages PAVE (Peer Advisors for Veteran Education); a peer mentoring program for incoming student veterans, he serves as a regional delegate for SVM (Student Veterans of Michigan), and is a Scholar with the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program. For Matthew, leadership means taking an active role in promoting a common objective; whether that objective is for a team, the community, or the world.
Jaedah Pickens – Psychology
Jaedah Pickens was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her wonderful family. She is in her senior year at GVSU studying Psychology with a double minor in Sociology and African/African American Studies. She has dreams of being known in the community as a leader advocating for education. Upon leaving GVSU, she will be attending graduate school, pursuing a degree in either Higher Education or Social Work. She has hopes of helping combat low retention rates among marginalized populations, encouraging student success, and providing safe spaces in college and community settings for everyone. She believes that a leader does not have to have the loudest voice to be in engaged, and that her leadership stems from her ability to lead and listen, while allowing others to take the lead.
Michael Pratt – Master of Business Administration
Michael is a master’s of business administration candidate at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business and is project coordinator at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy’s Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning. He holds bachelor’s degrees in both philosophy and psychology from Grand Valley State University. During his time as an undergraduate student, Michael served as officer and treasurer of GVSU’s Undergraduate Philosophy Club and was the recipient of the Excellence-in-a-Discipline Award for philosophy in 2015. Broadly construed, he is fascinated by questions at the intersection of issues regarding human agency, moral responsibility, and ethics. More specifically, Michael’s primary academic interests are applied ethics, the psychology of reasoning, systems-thinking, and corporate social and moral responsibility. He plans to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in either organizational behavior, business, or management and specialize in business ethics and corporate social responsibility. In his spare time, Michael enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, reading, and trying new foods, beer, and wine.
Carol Reiss – Occupational Therapy
Carol grew up in a family that was community-service oriented and enjoyed housing individuals who were in need. They typically had at least one or two extra people living with them. Graduating from GVSU in 1991 with a BA in International Business, she knew she wanted to explore the world. While living as an exchange student for 2.5 years in various countries and then later working in corporate America, she had the opportunity to travel to five continents, (live on four) and become functional in five languages. In 2001, with a Masters in Management obtained from Aquinas college she had her first child and entered the incredible world of parenting. Now with a 13 and 15-year-old, she is gaining life-altering insights into the qualities of being an effective leader. She believes that “it is remarkable what kids can teach us!”. In 2012, her aging parents’ health failed and she found herself a part of the sandwich generation. With an insatiable desire to learn, an avid interest in helping her parents, and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, she decided to return to academia to seek a graduate degree in the allied health field, specifically Occupational Therapy. Degree completion is set for July 2017. In a culture that seems to be growing evermore divided, she is passionate about promoting inclusion, kindness, and well-being. In their spare time, her and her husband enjoy participating in endurance sports and competing on a multi-sport team, doing marathons, ironman triathlons etc. She believes in life balance, and relishes being a life-coach and working part time in her local school system with special education kids.
Dallas Rohraff – Cell and Molecular Biology
Dallas is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University where she is majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology and minoring in Chemistry and Applied Statistics. She has been involved with research since the summer after her freshman year, when she was a Student Summer Scholar at Grand Valley State University. During this summer, she performed microbiological tests in Dr. Roderick Morgan’s laboratory to determine the antibiotic activity of several essential oils. Dallas has continued working on this project during the academic semesters and has begun a second project in Dr. Dawn Hart’s research laboratory at GVSU where she has worked to characterize a protein involved in cellular division. Dallas spent the summer of 2015 conducting research at the University of Georgia through a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program that was funded by the National Science Foundation. During a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta that summer, she determined that this was where she would like to pursue her career in research. During the summer of 2016 Dallas studied abroad in Ghana where her service learning project involved working with an organization that provides clean water and health education to rural villages in Ghana. She says that this experience was life changing and that she has fallen in love with international travel and service projects that allow her to learn by immersing herself in new cultures. After graduation, Dallas plans to attend graduate school to obtain her PhD. If she is not in the laboratory, you might find Dallas spreading awareness about research as a third year Undergraduate Research Ambassador for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship at GVSU. She sits as the president of the Women in STEM and Microbiology clubs, where she hopes to empower women, both at the collegiate and K-12 grade levels, and promote careers in science. She loves to dance with Grand Valley’s Dance Troupe in her free time and is excited to develop her leadership skills through the Cook Leadership Academy this year.
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 – Sociology
Casey is a senior in the Frederik Meijer Honors College majoring in Sociology with minors in Psychology and Applied Statistics. She grew up in Livonia, Michigan and graduated from Livonia Stevenson High School in 2013. Throughout her high school career, Casey had the opportunity to travel the country and the world representing the United States as a member of the USA Gymnastics Power Tumbling National Team–it was from these experiences that she discovered her passions for traveling and viewing the world from unfamiliar perspectives. These passions then developed through her classes and her work as a research assistant at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy. She has since studied abroad and taken interest in social innovation and design thinking–tools with which she hopes to make a meaningful difference in the world. Casey is excited to be a Cook Leadership Fellow as she looks forward to the networking and leadership experiences the Cook Leadership Academy can offer.
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 – Supply Chain Management and Marketing
Rachel Travis is a junior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Supply Chain Management and Marketing, and pursuing a certification in Intercultural Competence. She is originally from Shepherd, Michigan where she grew up with her Mom, Dad, and younger brother Tyler. During her time in high school Rachel took on a variety of leadership positions, and began to develop her passion for business after being the president of Business Professionals of America for two years. Now at GVSU, Rachel is currently the treasurer of the GVSU American Production and Inventory Control Society, and is the Vice President of Finance for the GVSU Student Senate. She has served for two years as a Frederick Meijer Honors College mentor, and is a part of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and the Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society. Since January of 2016, Rachel has been a Logistics Procurement intern at Steelcase Inc. in Grand Rapids, MI. When Rachel is not working or doing things at GVSU she enjoys working on start-up companies and bringing out her creative and entrepreneurial side. She has strong passions for collaboration, ideation, and design thinking, as well as sustainable and ethical practices. When she graduates in April of 2018 Rachel hopes to work full-time for a company who reflects these passions, as well as embraces the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. Rachel is very excited to build new relationships, meet new people, and continue developing her leadership skills through the Cook Leadership Academy this year.
Rose Turuka – International Business and Marketing
Rose Turuka is from East Africa, Tanzania off a little island known as Zanzibar. She is currently studying Abroad in France for a semester to finish her minor in French language and will return to GVSU for her last semester in January before graduating in May 2017. She is a double major in International Business and Marketing with a minor in French. At Grand Valley, Rose has held various executive board positions in different cultural and performing arts organizations. Meeting different individuals and improving her leaderships skills throughout her college career has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for her.
She inspired the beginning of a non-profit organization in Tanzania known as the RoseTuruka (ROTU) Foundation which aims to financially aid unstable individuals and orphans in order to receive education. As of now, it is only based in Tanzania 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, try to sing and experience the slow moments in life.
From the Cook Leadership Academy, she hopes to work together with fellow aspiring leaders to create the impact needed in the society, as well as form lasting relationships with both mentors and fellows.
Eric Versluis – Biomedical Sciences
Eric Versluis is a senior pursuing a degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in business with the goal of getting into medical school 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. During his sophomore and junior years, he regularly volunteered at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital where he helped out in the inpatient therapy gyms. The summer after his junior year, Eric went to do medical mission work in the Brazilian Amazon for 3 months. During this time Eric observed and assisted various doctors and nurses, as well as taught a class in first aid. 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 medical school.
Guerin Wagner – Marketing and Finance
Guerin Wagner is seeking a double major in Marketing and Finance from the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. Guerin applied and was admitted into the Frederick Meijer Honors College to push himself intellectually and increase his leadership abilities. He is entering his 2nd year at Grand Valley State University. Guerin is a native to Zionsville, Indiana, and was offered a scholarship to play football at GVSU. Guerin is passionate about missional work; he has served in Haiti three times, and Philadelphia once last year through Campus Ministries at Grand Valley. Guerin believes that putting others before yourself is the key to live a successful and beneficial life. With this, he became a leader of a bible study on the Grand Valley football team where he leads teammates through scripture once a week. Guerin also enjoys any kind of outdoor activities, cards and spending time with his family and friends. Guerin is also a core member in athlete’s intervarsity on campus, and plans on joining the American Marketing Association in the near future. While graduation is still a few years away, Guerin plans on getting his masters in either Finance or Marketing. He hopes to pursue a business career and eventually become a sales marketer or a financial advisor.
Nikhil Watsa – Physics
Nikhil Watsa thought he would be a pilot when he was four. He then wanted to be his uncle— the cool one who was always relaxed, who decided everything on his own terms and had an artistic job. Later, were aspirations of architecture, artistry, writing, and engineering, until now—where he is perplexed as to what he wants to be. It creases his brow to think that he cannot be it all, but then he remembers who he is and it brings a little peace and clarity. The person who he is – is kind, gentle, caring. He is one who could spend the entire day contemplating his imagined future, or gazing intently into something as infinite as the stars or as delicate as a cell. He would rather spend a night painting than sleeping, and his most valuable possessions are his friends and the pictures he sees when he closes his eyes. Today the world finds Nikhil studying physics as a junior at Grand Valley, but tomorrow Nikhil might find the world to be too small and might fly to the horizon to see what’s beyond. Nikhil lives by many principles, but his most cherished one is bound to remain the same forever – his thirst for change. Nikhil believes that life is a story; aware that any good story conceals its oceans within its deserts, he waits in passionate anticipation for the adventures on the next page.
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 – Psychology & Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Skylar is a fourth year student at GVSU pursuing a double major in Psychology and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Skylar is proud to have been a student worker at the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center for two years before transitioning to his resident assistant role at Grand Valley’s Gender Justice House. This year, Skylar is looking forward to co-facilitating the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center’s weekly group Loud & Queer, working with Inclusion and Equity to help improve the campus climate for students who are marginalized, finalizing research on LGBTQIA+ student mental health, and implementing a training video that he directed on classroom trans* inclusivity. While Skylar has an ambitious tendency to stay busy, what he cares about most is being there for others as they process, grow, and develop new perspectives of the world and each other. After graduating, Skylar intends to either pursue a masters in Student Affairs or to obtain licensure as a Social Worker and to eventually work professionally in counseling or student affairs specializing in gender, sexuality, and the mental health effects of marginalization.
Alexander Wong – Chemistry and Exercise Science
Alex is a fifth year senior at GVSU, double majoring in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry, and Exercise Science with a Clinical emphasis. He is minoring in business. Upon graduating he plans on attending medical school. He is commissioning with the US army and will hold the rank of Second Lieutenant by the end of the school year.
Alex is from Bloomfield Hills Michigan. His father, Kenneth, is an engineer who was born in Hong Kong. They speak exclusively Cantonese at home; he has spoken Cantonese longer than he has spoken English. His mother, Gilda, is a nurse and works as a preceptor at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak Michigan.
As a student at GVSU, Alex has played many roles. He was a varsity athlete in diving his freshman and sophomore years. He is the president of Humulus Lupulus, GVSU’s brewing science and technology club. He is also the treasurer of GVSU’s Chemistry club, having completed research in organic chemistry, specifically antibiotic synthesis and nucleophilic ring opening. He has just recently started doing research in kinesiology. Last year he had a teaching position in the general chemistry labs and currently holds a teaching position in the organic chemistry labs.
As a fifth year student, he is only taking 3 classes and teaching in the chemistry department. His weeks are primarily spent teaching and working in the chemistry stockroom.
His big project currently is acting as CEO and founder of a newly founded consulting company. Their mission is to privatize undergraduate advising, by acting as facilitators and mentors to underclassmen who wish to attend medical school. They believe through fostering relationships and independence they can help create more capable and well-rounded doctors. They challenge the current system through leading by example and offering a resource to undergraduates as they pursue a competitive and challenging career.
David Abbott, Director of Friends & Corporate Relations, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids
Raul Alvarez, Chief Communicator, Storyteller & Synergist at GTSD Group; former ED of Communications at GRCC
Fred Antczak, Dean, GVSU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Charles Ash, Partner, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP
Scott Ayotte, Professor at GVSU in Management; former Human Resource Specialist for Spectrum Health; member by Executive Appointment to the State of MI Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission
Deb Bailey, GRCC Board of Trustees, Director of Global Relations at Steelcase, Inc.
Claudia Bajema, Director of Graduate Business Programs (Retired), GVSU
Dan Behm, Superintendent, Forest Hills Public Schools
Mary Dailey Brown, CEO/President of SowHope; CLA Alumna
Allie Bush, Director of Governmnet Affairs, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce; CLA Alumna
Dev Butler, Director of Staff Relations & Development, GVSU; Thinc Consulting LLC
Laurie Chesley, Provost, GRCC
Jayne Courts, MD, FACP, Medical Director, Mercy Health Physician Partners GR
Michelle Covington, Senior Development Manager, Kids’ Food Basket
Kathy Crosby, President & CEO, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids
Tania DeVries, VP of Wealth Management & Investments, Huntington National Bank
Kent Dobson, Pilgrimage Tour Director; former Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church
Tom Doyal, Managing Director, RDV Corp
Brandon Eisentrager, Executive Director, Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring (JEM)
Paul Farr, MD, Doctor of Gastroenterology (Retired)
Ryan Foster, Senior Director, Pharmacy Services SHHG, Butterworth Hospital
Linsey Gleason, Partner, Estate Planning Practice Team, Varnum Law LLP
Justin Gray, Inpatient Nursing Supervisor, Spectrum Health Butterworth; CLA Alumnus
John Green, Executive Chairman, Founders Brewing Co.; GVU Leadership Committee
Valerie Guzman, Associate Director of Student Life, GVSU
Graci Harkema, Account Recruiting Manager – Government Services, TEK Systems
George Heartwell, Former Mayor of Grand Rapids; Community Sustainability Coordinator, GVSU
Elissa Hillary, Executive Director, Local First
Paul Hillman, Professor of Management, GVSU; former partner of Conway, Diering & Hillman; Business Mentor, Jandernoa Entreprenurial Mentoring (JEM)
Dirk Hoffius, Attorney, Varnum Estate Planning Practice Group; Trustee, GRAM; President, Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Foundation; Board of Directors, Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Dan Hurwitz, Assistant VP for Community Giving, GVSU University Development
Jack Iott, Senior Investment Analyst at RDV Corporation; CLA Alumnus
Melinda Johnson, OB/GYN; Division Chief, Women’s Health Department, Spectrum Health
Greg Kaufman, CEO, Amstore
Matt Maletich, Principal Consultant, Blue Engine Consulting
Jennifer Maxson, Practice Group Leader, Varnum Consulting
Rob McCarty, Managing Partner, The Image Shoppe
Cynthia McCurren, Dean, College of Nursing, GVSU
Brianne McKee, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
Ciciley Moore, Program Manager, WK Kellogg Foundation
Noreen Myers, Attorney of Employment Law; former GVSU Board of Trustees Member
Jordan O’Neil, Director of Business Development and Marketing, Griffin Properties; Founder of Failure:Lab; CLA Alumnus
Diana Pace, Retired Director, GVSU Counseling Center; former Associate Dean of Students, GVSU
Peter Perez, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, US Dept of Commerce- International Trade Administration; Chairman, Carter Products
Matt Rampe, Business Valuation Professional, Senior Manager, Beene Garter
Kristin Revere, Vice President, Vanguard Public Affairs
Suzanne Richards, Affilitate Professor Educational Leadership, GVSU College of Education
Larry Robson, MD, Doctor of Vascular Surgery
Megan Rogers, Child Life Specialist, Student Program Coordinator, Metro Health Hospital
Megan Sall, Current GVSU Board of Trustees; Project Manager at CQL; former Business Development Manager at The Right Place; CLA Alumna
Dave Smith, Director of Benefits and Wellness, GVSU Human Resources
Lauren Smith, Producer/On-Air Talent, 104.5 SNX
Hilary Snell, Attorney (of Counsel), Varnum LLC, Estate Planning; Chair, Hauenstein Center Advisory Cabinet
Brian Steketee, CEO/Founder, Modustri
Jane Toot, Professor of Physical Therapy, GVSU Honors College
Selma Tucker, Communications Director, Public Sector Consultants; CLA Alumnus
Kyle Van Strien, Co-Owner, Distiller at Long Road Distillers
Kathleen Vogelsang, Chief Investment Officer, Van Andel Institute
John Wardrop, Chair, TEC 53; former President, Sparks Belting Company; former Board Chair, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids
Heidi Weesies, Communications Professor, Davenport University; DiSC, Leadership, and Mentoring Consultant
Michael Youngblood, Principle Account Manager, Gas Major Accounts, DTE Energy