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 College Student Affairs Leadership Faculty


Jay Cooper

Associate Professor of Education

B.S., Oakland University, M.S.Ed., Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Ed.D., Western Michigan University

Dr. Cooper joined the faculty in the fall of 2002. He earned his Ed.D. in educational leadership from Western Michigan University in April 2002. Dr. Cooper worked as a practitioner in student affairs for 19 years. He spent 14 years at Grand Valley State University serving as associate director of Student Life, three years at the University of South Carolina at Columbia as coordinator for Student Programs, and two years as a graduate assistant in the University Programming Office at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU). He earned his M.S.Ed. in higher education with a concentration in college student personnel at SIU and his B.S. in public administration from Oakland University. Dr. Cooper has taught six different CSAL courses including Student Development Theory (EDH 647), Administration of Student Affairs Programs (EDH 653), Intervention Strategies for Student Development (EDH 655), as well as serves as a master’s thesis/project advisor (EDH 693/695), practicum faculty supervisor (EDH 685/686), and led the Mexican culture and education course in Puebla, Mexico. In addition to his teaching responsibilities as an associate professor in the College of Education, Dr. Cooper also serves as interim chair of the Leadership and Learning Department in the College of Education.

Donald Mitchell

Donald "DJ" Mitchell, Jr.

Assistant Professor of Education

Program Coordinator for the M.Ed. in Higher Education program

B.S., Shaw University, M.S., Minnesota State University, Mankato, Ph.D., University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Dr. Mitchell (DJ) joined the M.Ed. in Higher Education faculty in the fall of 2012.  He received his Ph.D. in educational policy and administration with a concentration in higher education from University of Minnesota—Twin Cities in February 2012.  Prior to his current role, he served as graduate recruitment and retention specialist at the University of Rochester and as an instructor of educational leadership and pre-doctoral fellow at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  He received an M.S. in educational leadership from Minnesota State University, Mankato and a B.S. in chemistry from Shaw University.  Dr. Mitchell has taught Theories of College Student Development (EDH 647), The American College Student (EDH 652), Organization and Administration of Higher Education (EDH 656), Higher Education and Student Affairs Functions (EDH 651), The Community College (EDH 657), as well as serves as a master’s thesis/project advisor (ED 693/695).  His research interests include Black Greek-lettered organizations, historically Black colleges and universities, intersectionality and higher education, and race and gender in higher education.

Karyn Rabourn

Karyn E. Rabourn

Instructor of Education

B.A., M.A., Michigan State University

Karyn joined the faculty in August 2015 and is currently a PhD candidate in higher education and student affairs at Indiana University Bloomington (IU). Her research interests include higher education finance; assessment within student affairs; and access, persistence and retention of non- or post-traditional and historically underrepresented students. Her dissertation focuses on beginning college student attitudes towards student loan borrowing and debt and she looks forward to connecting information learned about students’ attitudes to actual borrowing behavior. At IU, Karyn worked for the Center of Postsecondary Research with the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Project for Academic Success and served as an assessment consultant to the Division of Student Affairs. Prior to doctoral programming, Karyn worked at the University of Pittsburgh and Michigan State University within residential life, including recruitment, selection, and training of professional, graduate, and undergraduate staff members.

College Student Affairs Leadership/Adult and Higher Education Adjunct Faculty

Andy Beachnau

Andrew Beachnau

Associate Vice Provost & Director of Housing and Health Services

B.A., Alma College; M.Ed., Grand Valley State University; Ph.D., Michigan State University

Andy Beachnau is the associate vice provost for student affairs & director of housing & health services. In his current role, Andy is responsible for overall leadership for Housing and Residence Life, the Campus Health Center, Campus Recreation, and The Children’s Enrichment Center.  Andy has been at Grand Valley State University for 32 years in a number of positions. He began his professional career at GVSU as a hall director in 1982 and became a residence life coordinator in 1984. In 1986, he became assistant director of housing and was later promoted to associate director of housing in 1990. After serving one year as acting director of housing and health services, he was hired as the director of housing and health services in 1995.   
Andy received his Bachelor of Arts from Alma College in 1982 in political science and physical education, his M.Ed. in education administration from Grand Valley State University in 1985, and his Ph.D. in 1995 from Michigan State University in college and university administration. He has taught graduate courses in the College of Education since l995.  Andy's wife Jacqueline (GVSU, 1987) is an RN at Spectrum Health. They live in Walker with their daughter, Alexandra, and son, Sean.   
Favorite Quote: “Every student matters, and what you do matters to students.”

Nykia Gaines

Nykia D. Gaines

Senior Academic Advisor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS)

B.S., Grand Valley State University; M.Ed., Grand Valley State University; Ph.D., Bowling Green State University

Dr. Gaines began her professional career at Grand Valley in 2001 as a living center director and later became an apartment director in 2005. In 2008, Dr. Gaines accepted a fellowship in Bowling Green State University’s Higher Education Administration doctoral program. During her tenure at BGSU, Dr. Gaines served as an academic advisor in the College of Education and Human Development. After earning her doctorate, Dr. Gaines returned to Grand Valley in June 2013 as a senior academic advisor in the CLAS Academic Advising Center. There she advises School of Communications majors and assists with assessment and strategic planning, web design, international student orientation, and special projects.

Dr. Gaines received her Bachelor of Science from Grand Valley State University in 1998 in criminal justice, her Master of Education in higher education with a specialization in college student affairs leadership from Grand Valley State University in 2001, and her Doctorate of Philosophy in higher education administration from Bowling Green State University in 2012. Dr. Gaines’ research interests include study abroad among African Americans, academic advising, and internationalization and globalization in higher education.

Aaron Haight

Aaron Haight

Assistant Dean of Students

B.A.A. Central Michigan University, M.P.A., Grand Valley State University, Ed.D., Eastern Michigan University

Aaron Haight has worked with the students at GVSU since 2000. She currently serves as the assistant dean of students coordinating the student judicial process as well as working with the CSAL Graduate Assistant program. As assistant director of Student Life (2000 – 2013) she spent her first seven years advising the fraternity and sorority community and her last six years in the Office of Student Life coordinating the Transitions Orientation program and a variety of student organization services. Prior to coming to GVSU, Aaron worked as a project manager for Edison Schools, Inc. in New York City and as a special events and development coordinator at Special Olympics Michigan.

Aaron graduated with her Bachelor of Applied Arts degree from Central Michigan University, her Master of Public Administration from Grand Valley State University, and her Doctor of Education from Eastern Michigan University.  The title of her dissertation is, “Examining the Impact of Student Involvement and Intercultural Experiences on Perceptions of Institutional Commitment to Diversity.”

Aaron is also a facilitator of StrengthsQuest and True Colors. She consults with area K-12 schools on college access, hazing, and diversity initiatives. She is active member of the Allendale Rotary and volunteers with the Allendale PTO, Allendale Youth Soccer Organization, and Allendale Little League.

Jessica Jennrich

Jessica Jennrich

Director, Women's Center

B.A., Bowling Green University; M.A., Eastern Michigan University; Ph.D., University of Missouri

Jessica Jennrich began in July 2013 as the director of the Women’s Center.  Previously Jessica worked at Dartmouth College directing the Center for Gender and Student Engagement and before that at the University of Missouri where she directed the Undergraduate Program in the Women’s Gender Studies Department as well as taught Women’s and Gender Studies courses.  She is currently involved in a number of higher education and feminist organizations and is a reviewer for the Diversity and Higher Education Journal.  Jessica is a former grant partner and guest writer for the American Association for University Women policy magazine.  Jessica is a contributor to research in the field of feminist disability studies as well as gender in higher education.  Jessica holds professional competencies in the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as well as Suicide Prevention. Jessica is also a writer of creative non-fiction, most recently published in Paradigm Magazine.

Jessica earned her bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green State University in English, her master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in women’s and gender studies, and her doctorate at the University of Missouri in educational leadership and policy analysis.

Bart Merkle

H. Bart Merkle

Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

B.A., Hope College; M.A., Ed.D., Western Michigan University

Dr. Bart Merkle serves as vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students at Grand Valley, where he has been the senior student affairs officer since his arrival in 1984.  Previously, he served in other student affairs roles including: acting dean of students and associate dean of students at Tulane University; associate dean of students, assistant dean of students, director of Career Planning & Placement, and hall director at Kalamazoo College; and admissions counselor at Hope College.

Bart earned the BA degree with a major in political science from Hope College, and an M.A. and Ed.D. in counseling and personnel administration in higher education from Western Michigan University.  His teaching focuses on Higher Education and Student Affairs Functions (EDH 651), Administration of Student Affairs Programs (EDH 653), and Practicum/Graduate Field Experience I & II (EDH 685/686).

Bart and his wife, Anne, have five children and seven grandchildren. They live in Allendale, MI, where they enjoy breeding Labrador retrievers, horseback riding, and kayaking.

Diana Pace

Diana Pace

Associate Dean of Students Emerita

B.A., Duke University; M.A., University of North Dakota; Ph.D., University of North Dakota

Diana Pace completed her B.A. degree in history at Duke University in 1963 and her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of North Dakota in 1976.  She has been at Grand Valley State University for most of the past 37 years with a slight hiatus at the University of Puget Sound and private practice as a psychologist in Grand Rapids.  She served as director of the Counseling Center at Grand Valley from 1984 until 2002.  During her tenure, the Counseling Center established an American Psychological Association internship training program.  Diana is a licensed psychologist and was one of the first women in the State of Michigan to receive her Diplomate in Counseling Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology.  She has authored over 25 articles for professional journals and authored “The Career Fix-It Book,” a self-help book on career planning.  Diana was among the first faculty to teach in the CSAL program.  She taught Intervention Strategies for Student Development (EDH 655) for several years prior to the hiring of permanent faculty for the program.  She recently retired from her position as associate dean of students and is enjoying teaching the practicum course (EDH 685/686) with Dean Merkle and playing with her grandchildren.

Dan Stauffer

Daniel (Dan) S. Stauffer

Adjunct Graduate Faculty

B.S., Grand Valley State College; M.M., Aquinas College; J. D., Thomas M. Cooley Law School

In 2015 Dan joined the adjunct faculty at Grand Valley State University.  However, he is no stranger to teaching or to Grand Valley.  A Grand Valley State College alum, he has been an adjunct professor on the Lansing and Grand Rapids campuses of Thomas M. Cooley Law School since 2011.  He has taught Negotiation Skills, Interviewing and Counseling, and has assisted both General/Civil and Domestic Relations Mediation courses as a coach.  He teaches EDH 654: The Student Affairs Administrator and the Law.  Dan is the managing member of Alternative Resolutions & Law, PLLC where he prefers to help people work through the most difficult situations of their lives in a dignified, compassionate and sensitive manner.

After graduating from Grand Valley State College in 1973, he went on to Aquinas College to earn a Master of Management degree in 1990 before going back to school for his law degree from Thomas M Cooley Law School in 2010.  He has been trained as a general-civil mediator, a domestic relations mediator, and a collaborative divorce attorney.  Dan is admitted to practice law in the State of Michigan and in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Memberships include the State Bar of Michigan, the Grand Rapids Bar Association, the International Association of Collaborative Professionals, the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan, and the Collaborative Divorce Professionals of West Michigan.  Dan has many years of experience in the computer world, the non-profit arena and the insurance industry.

Dan and his wife are life-long residents of the Grand Rapids area.  They have three wonderful, amazingly bright, married children and a cat named Arlo.  When he is not actively pursuing his legal profession, he likes to hunt and fish, travel, and spend time with his family.