West Michigan is shining a bit brighter, thanks to the dynamic talent, spirit and intellect of local women (and men) honored at West Michigan Woman's first-ever Brilliance Awards.
On April 26, we honored those who excel in their careers, are committed to creating positive change, and elevate other women leaders while tackling the issues that professional women in our community face every day. There's no shortage of talent and support in our community: We had 174 nominations for 10 distinct categories recognizing women for qualities of leadership in all fields, at all career levels—and a packed house to celebrate.
We sold out of tickets before we were able to open up sales to the public. Yet don't worry: The Brilliance Awards will be back next year, and we'll have plenty of space in the Ambassador Ballroom at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Mark your calendars for April 26, 2018, and keep your eyes open to nominate the talented and spirited women in your life.
Meanwhile, congratulations to the top honorees of the 2017 Brilliance Awards. Their accomplishments and stories are unique, inspiring and uplifting—and they blaze trails for the rest of us.
As an Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University, Adrienne Wallace is committed to helping young students achieve career success. She mentors the next generation of public relations practitioners, with the intention of making the next generation of leaders stronger and better equipped to achieve their aspirations.
Emma Garcia is the co-director of Access West Michigan, has co-chaired the Food and Nutrition Coalition, and currently chairs the Kent County Food Policy Council formation team. At Access West Michigan, she helped pilot a shared leadership structure in which all team members contribute to decision-making and have a flattened leadership structure to minimize hierarchy, while encouraging collaboration and transparency.
Many years ago, Helen Zeerip nearly ruined her parents' business while her father was battling cancer. With hard work and tenacity, she turned the business around. During it all, she and her husband were raising three children while providing foster care to children in need. In 2014, she saw a need and created Grant Me Hope, a nonprofit organization that works to help place foster children into deserving homes.
Amy Knape, Development and Communications Manager for West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology, believes she's successful only when her colleagues are successful. Along with daily articulating WMCAT's impactful work for grant and award applications, she can often be found serving punch at the Teen Art Exhibit and supporting staff in their interests.
Lydia VanHoven's goal is to give a voice to people who don't have a voice, and she works to empower underrepresented groups to tell their stories through her work founding the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival, publishing a series of social justice topics in The Bandit zine and leading the Meijer Style plus-size integration team to encourage positive body image.
Champion of Service
Christina Rosloniec exclusively volunteers her time, talents and treasure to serve the nonprofit sector. She has dedicated herself to organizations, including the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Laughfest, Kids' Food Basket and more. She's also the brains behind an innovative model of fund development called "Auction with a Twist," which has added over $1.23 million in charitable giving to local organizations.
As Executive Director of Hello West Michigan, making connections is inherent in Cindy Brown's work—yet she was doing it long before it was part of her job description. She believes a connection is successful when the region doesn't just gain a talented individual, but when a family is brought together.
Karen M. Smoots is the mother of two active boys—and she knew there had to be an easier way to dry her children's wet winter gloves. There is. She launched The Green Glove Dryer and serves as CEO of KMS Designs Inc. Through her work with the Michigan Inventors Coalition, she works with new inventors and advocates for the manufacturing workforce.
Best Supporting Man
Randy Zylstra, CEO and President of Wedgwood Christian Services, works tirelessly to mentor, advocate, recruit, promote and share in the work of women—with the intent of elevating their equality in the workplace through development and promotion.
Woman of the Year
Outside of family, community and church, the world of Judy L. Smith, M.D.—for the last 30 years—has revolved around the mission to cure cancer. Three years ago, she came to West Michigan to develop a new model of care for our region that merged the best of an academic, freestanding cancer center while keeping the strengths of community. The model brings the best in technology, specialization, multispecialty care and experience and merges it with the support of family and community.
Dr. Smith is a visionary and a strong role model—a fearless catalyst for change who lives by the motto, "Impossible simply defines the degree of difficulty." Read more about the "Woman of the Year ... and Then Some" in the digital copy of our June/July issue of West Michigan Woman magazine.