SMC Board Honors Longtime Service, Hears Update on Campus Life in Pandemic

Southwestern Michigan College’s Board of Trustees heard a presentation this week on supporting student engagement through campus life events despite ongoing pandemic challenges.

Dr. Joe Odenwald’s President’s Report featured Executive Director of Campus Life Jeff Hooks, who said, “This year we tried to build on the momentum we had going into 2019; 2020 obviously put a crimp in student engagement across the country (due to COVID-19 restrictions).”

His apples-to-apples statistics compared those two similar years, showing 800 Welcome Week attendees in 2019 climbing to 1,324 last year.

“Studies show you have to get students involved in the first six weeks if you want them to attach to the campus,” Hooks said. “We actually did 33 more events in 2021 (88) than we did in 2019 (55). Total attendance went from 1,755 to 2,734. Our residence hall programs also showed an increase, from 1,435 to 2,364. Unique attendees averaged 31 per event.”

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With dozens of active organizations, “We tell students that as far as campus life, they can do everything here that they would at a four-year university,” Hooks said.

“COVID is the roughest period I’ve ever witnessed for the college,” said Chairman Tom Jerdon. “To do what you’ve done is just remarkable.”

Trustees accepted a $7,500 gift from Indiana Michigan Power via the AEP Foundation, Pittsburgh, for the Grady Scholars program. Board members also acknowledged 34 donations totaling $108,525 to the SMC Foundation.

President Odenwald also presented Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas F. Jerdon with his 30-year service pin. Jerdon, born the same year as SMC, is only the second chairman in the college’s 58-year history, succeeding 50-year Chairman Dr. Fred L. Mathews in 2015.

Executive Director of Campus Life Jeff Hooks was awarded his five-year service pin by Trustee Beth Cripe. Hooks joined SMC in 2017 as Director of Residence Life. He was promoted to his current position in 2020. Hooks previously served at Longwood University in Virginia, SUNY Oswego in New York, Middle Tennessee State University and Mississippi State University, from which he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy and administration. Hooks is in his final semester of a Doctor of Education degree in community college leadership from Ferris State University. The Iraq war veteran served four years active duty with the Army and three years in the Mississippi Army National Guard.