SMC honors Trustee Dr. Elaine Foster for 30 years of service

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, February 9, 2023

DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College paid tribute Feb. 8 to Trustee Dr. Elaine Foster with a 30-year pin for her unique combination of service as faculty, staff and, since January 2019, a member of the Board of Trustees.

President Dr. Joe Odenwald made the presentation to Foster, who grew up in St. Joseph and graduated from Lakeshore High School. She’s lived in Niles (Pokagon Township) for almost 40 years.

Foster began her professional nursing career at South Bend Memorial Hospital. “She always had a desire to teach,” Odenwald said, “so when she had the opportunity to start teaching, she took advantage of that and never looked back.”

“Her SMC career would turn out to last 27 years,” Odenwald said. “She worked up from faculty to chair and eventually dean of both nursing and health sciences, and the arts and sciences division.”

Foster left the college in 2011 to pursue other opportunities. She spent two years with Kaplan University (now Purdue Global) as associate dean of nursing and director of curriculum for licensure programs.

In 2013, Foster accepted a position as associate dean for American Sentinel University, becoming dean of all programs in 2016. She also served as a project director of simulation development for ASU’s technology division.

In March 2022, Foster became vice president of nursing for Education Affiliates, one of the largest medical, dental and skilled trades education programs in the United States.

In her VP role, Foster oversees 21 nursing programs across the country, providing insight into nursing education trends, as well as helping programs adhere to state, federal and accreditation standards.

An active member of the nursing community, Foster serves as a member of the advisory council for the National League for Nursing Foundation, sits on the board for the Organization of Associate Degree Nursing and is a member of Sigma Theta Chi International. She is currently program evaluator for ACEN, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.

She recently marked nine years on the Cass County Council on Aging board, including four as president.

Foster holds a doctorate in educational leadership and administration and master’s degree in nursing from Andrews University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Michigan. She also earned a certificate from Harvard University’s Institute of Management and Leadership in Education.

Elaine and Scott, her husband of 39 years, have two children, Andrew and Danielle, and four grandchildren. The Foster farm produces corn and soybeans and raises purebred Angus cattle.

Vice President of Enrollment Management and Campus Life Brent Brewer introduced Ben Spencer to accept the other service pin, for five years.

Spencer joined SMC in February 2008 as an admissions counselor and has just been promoted to senior admissions counselor, Brewer said.

Originally from St. Joseph, Spencer earned a bachelor’s degree in 2016 in communications and writing from Grand Valley State University. He wrote sports part-time for The Herald-Palladium until recently, when he received an opportunity to become Zac Sartori’s assistant coach of the Roadrunners’ men’s and women’s cross country teams.

“Ben has been and continues to be a real asset to the college and a vital piece of our success with admissions,” Brewer said. “I’m thrilled to have him as part of my team.”

Trustee Tracy Hertsel awarded Spencer his pin.

Trustees accepted a $750 donation to the college and acknowledged 16 gifts to the SMC Foundation totaling $22,215, including several from faculty and staff.

“It’s great to have that kind of support from our employees,” Treasurer Becky Moore noted.

Odenwald said the board’s annual long-range planning session will follow its Tuesday, June 13, meeting, when trustees are expected to adopt the 2023-24 budget.