Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Tech Week Grand Rapids offers unique experience for STEM students at Calvin

Tech Week Grand Rapids — a large multi-day event focused on technology and innovation in the Grand Rapids area — is starting this Monday and will span the entire week through Saturday, Sept. 23.

The event –– hosted by multiple organizations –– will include multiple tech showcases, panel discussions, networking opportunities and presentations from leaders in the industry.

“It’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ sort of conference, and we have a variety of topics,” said Andria Romkema, senior vice president of marketing and communications at The Right Place, the organization responsible for coordinating the event.

Topics include AI, extended reality, diversity and inclusion and networking. Romkema said,“Students –– especially students who are towards the tail end of their degree program –– may want to consider coming to some of the more networking-focused sessions because these will have a wide variety of people at them, including various tech leaders and recruiters in the community.”

It’s a great chance for students to reach out and build relationships with potential employers, according to Romkema.

Brian Paige, Vice President of IT and professor at Calvin, agreed. “Any professional networking event with others is a career opportunity…Students should be able to confidently discuss their interests and skills, perhaps have a ‘pitch’ for an entrepreneurial idea that they might be thinking about and most definitely promote how they are ready to ‘think deeply, act justly and live wholeheartedly as a Christian agent of renewal’ in the tech fields,” he said.

Romkema told Chimes that the liberal arts education Calvin provides can also be a valuable asset for students looking to get hired. “One of the biggest factors that we hear employers are looking for are those soft skills. And I think you can hone them at a liberal arts college. [Things like] critical thinking, writing, communication, all of those are skills that we use every day in our jobs,” said Romkema. 

But the event is not entirely about networking. 

The Right Place — the Grand Rapids based organizer of the event — is focused on drawing businesses to the area while fostering the growth of pre-existing ones. In the next decade, The Right Place is aiming to promote the creation of 20,000 new tech jobs in the area through partnerships with businesses, schools, and through events such as Tech Week Grand Rapids. This growth would represent about 10% of the region’s employment in tech.

Part of The Right Place’s regional tech strategy, this is Tech Week Grand Rapids’s second year as an event. The organizers aimed to bring together more than 300 businesses. According to Romkema, the event has grown “like wildfire,” amassing over 6,000 attendees and 40 partners; planning for the 2024 event is already underway.

The flexible, multi-day nature of the event allows for students to visit as much as their class schedules allow. The wide selection of events allows students to pick and choose what interests them most. Many of the events center on engagement between tech companies and the community.

Tech Week Grand Rapids has a number of opportunities for liberal arts students, including multiple AI-related events on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

While some people may associate “tech” with stem fields, AI impacts all fields of study in some capacity. Romkema emphasized that “there really is something for everybody at Tech Week, and you don’t have to be in the tech field or pursuing a tech degree to find something that you want at Tech Week.”

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