Date: November 15, 2017

This event featured Tania (Nguyen) LaViolet, PhD, senior program manager at Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program and the American Talent Initiative (ATI) and Dr. Bill Pink, president of Grand Rapids Community College. 

According to indicators from the Beginning Postsecondary Student Survey, each year, there are approximately 51,000 lower-income, high-achieving community college students who do not transfer to a four-year institution. With an estimated 80% of community college students intending to transfer, researchers at Aspen and Ithaka S+R hosted over 25 research calls with two-year and four-year institutions to understand:

  • The challenges four-year institutions face in enrolling and supporting community college students.
  • What practices have been successful in cultivating relationships with community colleges to support enrollment, graduation, and holistic success of transfer students.

This work builds on The Transfer Playbook, which Aspen published last year in collaboration with the Community College Research Center. Dr. LaViolet provided a preview of the upcoming ATI research publication, with a focus on supporting STEM bachelor’s attainment. President Pink offered a local perspective on the challenges facing community college students in Michigan related to transfer and share thoughts on the experiences, preparation, and support necessary for successful STEM transfer to a four-year college.  In addition, Dulce Rio-Ortiz, a senior in the College of Engineering and transfer student offered insights into programs and practices she experienced that impacted her experiences.

This event is sponsored by the Growing STEM Knowledge Community.



Speaker Biographies

Tania LaViolet

Tania LaViolet is a senior program manager at the College Excellence Program (CEP), where she co-leads the management of the American Talent Initiative — a growing alliance of colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates in the country committed to collectively increasing opportunity for talented low- and moderate-income students. Prior to joining CEP, Tania led best-practice research at the Education Advisory Board, where she published work on promoting timely degree completion at four-year universities, as well as strategic allocation of financial aid to encourage persistence of low-income students.

As a PhD student, Tania served in one of the tutor cohorts at the Brilliant Club, a British non-profit that leverages the research community to support young people from under-represented backgrounds access highly-selective universities in the UK. After co-founding the Brilliant Club DC in 2015, the first North American chapter the Brilliant Club, Tania was selected as the first partner of AccessEd, an incubator that supports social entrepreneurs design and deliver new university access programs that mobilize the PhD research community.

Tania holds a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Oxford and graduated with a BSc in biology from Mount Allison University in Sackville, Canada.

Bill Pink

In May 2017, Dr. Bill Pink became the tenth president of Grand Rapids Community College. Dr. Pink was vice president and dean for workforce development at GRCC prior to becoming the president. He has been an educator for over 25 years, and prior to his tenure at GRCC, Dr. Pink served as vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma State University — Oklahoma City.

While Abilene, Texas is his hometown, Dr. Pink lived in Oklahoma City for 18 years prior to making Grand Rapids home and has taught and/or coached in Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Oregon. He was a successful college student-athlete as a basketball player, earning awards for his athletic and academic achievements, including a 2016 induction into the York College Athletic Hall of Fame. Dr. Pink has an associate’s degree from York College, Nebraska, a bachelor’s from Oklahoma Christian University, a master’s from the University of Central Oklahoma, and a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Pink contributes to his community through a variety of ways, including membership on the board of directors for Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids, Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids, and the Heart of West Michigan United Way. Dr. Pink also serves on the boards of West Michigan Works (the workforce development agency for seven counties in West Michigan), The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids, and The Right Place. In January of 2016, Dr. Pink completed a four-year appointment as a member of the National Selection Committee for the National Merit Scholarship Council. He is also a former national conference co-chair for Dream Deferred: The Future of African-American Education. Dr. Pink is a sought-after public speaker and has accumulated numerous invitations to speak at events across the US. His topics are usually associated with diversity, leadership, economic/workforce development, and faith-based presentations. As an educator, Dr. Pink teaches public speaking courses as well as athletic administration courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Along with a daily workout regimen, Dr. Pink enjoys golfing, fishing, and spending time with his family. His wife is Lori, and their two children are Lance and Lydia. Lori, a Michigan native, is a retiree of the US Air Force and currently works for the Federal Aviation Administration. Lance, who is married to his wife Kayla, is a member of the United States Marine Corps, and Dr. Pink’s daughter, Lydia, is a high school freshman.

Dulce Rios-Ortiz

Dulce is a senior in the College of Engineering, studying engineering physics with a concentration in optics. She is an advocate for DACA and undocumented students, and works to support students to build connections and opportunities on campus.

She shares her thoughts with Dr. Ann Lin and Carlos Robles-Shanahan in the MVisible Voices Undocumented episode, where they collectively explore the resistance and rugged path toward opportunities undocumented students face at the University of Michigan, and their commitment to support and advocate for the needs of the undocumented community.