Grand Valley partners with Downtown Market

Increased access to Grand Rapids community

By Carly Simpson | 1/8/14 6:58pm


Courtesy / Downtown Market Grand Rapids

Grand Valley State University students and faculty will be coming in close contact with local chefs, bakers and farmers this year. The university recently signed a one-year lease with the Grand Rapids Downtown Market for $5,600. Students and faculty working on food and nutrition or other health related projects will be able to use the 350-square-foot space for research and community outreach.

“GVSU has a tradition of involvement in community service learning projects, and we are interested in developing more of them,” said Jon Jellema, associate vice president of Academic Affairs at GVSU. “They develop from ideas brought forward by neighborhood groups and students and faculty of the university. It is our intention to continue that model, only now in the Downtown Market, as well.”

GVSU Director of Community Engagement Ruth Stegeman said the partnership with the market will give students a chance to apply theoretical knowledge in a “real world” setting.

“Students see the relevance of what they are learning,” Stegeman said. “It makes it more meaningful and can help clarify what vocational direction they want to go in. It also helps students to think critically and work collaboratively because they have to apply their skills to messy problems where there isn’t a clear answer.”

She added that research shows that students who are involved with service learning projects are more likely to persist in school and graduate. Studies also suggest that after graduation, students who participated are more civic-minded and more likely to volunteer and become involved in their community.

“We appreciate that service learning projects provide something of value, both to the community and to the students and faculty who participate,” Jellema said. “It seems very likely that over the years programs such as health, education, social work, hospitality, business, engineering and others will find occasion to use the space as a hub for community outreach and research.”

The market, located on Ionia Avenue, has been open since August 2013. It includes vendors selling baked goods, cheese, flowers, produce, meat, ice cream and chocolate. The second floor has more than 16,500 square feet used for classes on nutrition, cooking and yoga. A sit-down restaurant and brew pub will be added to the indoor Market Hall when tenants are found.

GVSU is currently working on its unfinished space, which is located on the ground floor of the market’s south side, and administrators expect it to be finished by late January. It can be used as a temporary office for one or two people, a group collaborative space or a neighborhood meeting space. Jellema said the design will be flexible.

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