Student story: From Harvard to community college

By Dave Murray

When you have a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Indiana University and a master’s in education from Harvard, where do you go next?

For Abbie Groff-Blaszak, it was Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC).

After a 20-year career in K-12 education – including nine years with the Michigan Department of Education – she was ready for a change.

“I knew that I wanted to do something different, try something different, and the [GRCC] Secchia Institute for Culinary Education provided everything I needed to not only explore an entirely new field but to visualize myself within it and equip me to jump right in,” she said.

Groff-Blaszak, who received her certificate in craft brewing in August, is now the head brewer for Creston Brewery.

“I knew I wanted to work for myself, and rather than limit myself to working toward that goal within the fields I knew, I decided to explore a bit,” she said. “I’d always harbored a desire to go to culinary school, so I enrolled in the Secchia Institute and decided to pursue both the baking and pastry arts and craft brewing certificates.”

The craft brewing classes fit better around her schedule as director of the West Michigan Leadership Academy and “everything just clicked.”

“I entered the program as an experienced craft beer enthusiast but with zero knowledge of the scientific and technical aspects of brewing,” Groff-Blaszak said. “In less than a year, GRCC equipped me with the practical knowledge and hands-on learning and experience to be a capable brewer and earn the confidence of an established Michigan brewery.”

She especially appreciated the connections she was able to make through the program.

“I got to learn how to brew from a brewer, learn sensory analysis from a certified cicerone and spend time in multiple breweries around the area,” she said.

While she isn’t working for herself yet, she loves her head brewer job and is thinking about what she will do when she’s ready to start her own business.

“For me, GRCC is the place that gave me the tools, resources and support to not only envision, but fully inhabit and embrace a career I wouldn’t have imagined possible.”

This article originally appeared here.

Dave Murray

is the communications director at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.