Since our founding, Ferris State University has been woven into the fabric of West Michigan and beyond. When Ferris became a state institution in 1950, that charge to serve the community officially became part of our mission. That service has ranged from the more general — educating workers and citizens — to specific partnerships that reach into communities around the state.
The first of these began in 1991, with a formal partnership with Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to create the Applied Technology Center (ATC). This collaboration allows students to earn an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree from Ferris, all in one location. By focusing on the unifying elements of a shared vision for academic and career success, the partnership has helped both institutions facilitate dual enrollment and to share space and resources for more than 25 years. Thousands of people have been able to earn current and competitive two- and four-year degrees in a familiar and comfortable learning environment, without being displaced from the community in which they work and live.
This simple proposition — meeting needs where you find them — became the model for scores of subsequent partnerships. Ferris now offers programs online and at 24 locations throughout Michigan and partners with more than 100 nonprofit organizations around the state.
Such partnerships are mutually beneficial. They help increase diversity by building welcoming and supportive capacity for students facing significant socioeconomic, cultural and language barriers to education. They prepare students for successful careers, responsible citizenship and economic success, especially those from underserved communities. They create synergy with nonprofits by matching specific expertise and community involvement with academic quality, and they supply job-ready graduates to the many industries and businesses in Michigan.
Now & Always: The Campaign for Ferris State University will expand the reach and impact of these collaborations.
Latino Community Development
Latinos are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Michigan — and the fastest growing. Studies show, however, that Latinos lag in education performance, income levels, employment rates and health status.
Over the past five years, Ferris has joined forces with community nonprofits to change these statistics. Summer programs, such as Avancemos and Promesa Summer Success, work with middle and high school students to close the education achievement gap. The University’s Latino Business and Economic Development Center offers programs that invest in up-and-coming community leaders and business people through the Latino Talent Initiative and the Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative. Campaign support will allow these multifaceted partnerships to grow, building a strong, diverse workforce that will allow West Michigan citizens, communities and businesses to flourish.
Plaza Roosevelt for Grand Rapids
Plaza Roosevelt is a 5.5 acre community-informed redevelopment project in the southwest Grand Rapids Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Ferris at Plaza Roosevelt will bring both the University to the neighborhood and the neighborhood to the University, continuing to foster mutual understanding and respect. Ferris State University is the lead higher educational partner in Plaza Roosevelt, invited to join Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, Mercy Health Clinica Santa Maria, Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association and the Hispanic Center of West Michigan in leading the project. At Ferris, we envision creating a flexible facility that serves as a resource to partners and neighbors. Here, Ferris will host existing programs and collaborate with neighborhood students and families to create new opportunities that inspire the pursuit of educational and career pathways aligned with the unique strengths and talents of participants.
Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD)
In 2001, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), a nationally recognized art and design school with its own rich 70-plus-year history and reputation for excellence, became part of Ferris State University. This partnership has paired KCAD’s reputation for art and design education with Ferris’ understanding of the importance of innovation, creativity and design in the state’s evolving economy. Today, Kendall College of Art and Design has an enrollment of more than 1,000 students.
Campaign investment will enable KCAD to achieve its top priority of increasing scholarship opportunities for its students at KCAD. Donor-supported scholarships make it possible for KCAD to better bridge the gap and reduce barriers for students seeking a KCAD degree today and into the future. All gifts, whether large or small, have the ability to create this lasting positive impact.
Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA)
In 2013, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) joined KCAD and Ferris State University. The UICA promotes inclusive cultural dialogue and lifelong learning throughout our diverse society and is a unique resource in West Michigan for students and the broader community. Through the campaign, UICA will expand its community impact by expanding curatorial support that will bolster the creative heart of UICA by expanding its ability to bring exhibitions and programs that speak to broader and more diverse communities.