Reaching the age of 50 marked more than an anniversary for Grand Valley State University. While the occasion was celebrated with a flurry of events and projects, the lasting effect was to launch the institution on a remarkable burst of growth, a five-year period in which major academic and athletic facilities were constructed, the curriculum was expanded and adjusted to meet modern student needs, and accolades were earned from a wide variety of state and national agencies for excellence in several areas.
This update to the detailed history compiled for the 50th anniversary will highlight a short but dramatically significant period in which Grand Valley grew substantially, yet reconfirmed its mission to remain student-centered and devoted to liberal arts education.
But First, The Fun
Gala events to honor Grand Valley State University's 50th Anniversary began on August 24, 2010 with a kickoff celebration as part of the annual faculty/staff welcome back picnic, but the foundation of the project was laid over a period of several years. A 30-member steering committee, chaired by Teri Losey, Special Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees, had been meeting since October 2007 to plan, encourage, prioritize and report on activities to mark the momentous milestone.
An enormous amount of effort went into long-term projects such as a commemorative book, "Grand Valley Celebrates 50 Years of Shaping Lives;" video histories of over 80 founders, early leaders, former trustees, long-standing faculty and staff; and the production of this website.
The 50th Anniversary Distinguished Academic Lecture Series kicked off with author, academic and businesswoman Jill Ker Conway on September 16. In addition to being the first of three in the 50th Anniversary Series, Conway also was the inaugural speaker for the Frederik Meijer Lecture Series as well as the 2010 Fall Arts Celebration Distinguished Academic Lecturer. Known for her autobiographical writings, including her first memoir, "The Road from Coorain," Conway was the first woman president of Smith College.
A 169-page commemorative book was produced by University News & Information Services (now University Communications) and Institutional Marketing, containing a summary of 50 years, profiles of leaders, 50 Favorite Pieces of Artwork, and Success Stories. Book signings were arranged with three former presidents, including Don Lubbers, pictured here.
The 50th Anniversary Lecture Series continued in February 2011 with a program featuring former Speaker of the Michigan House Paul Hillegonds, speaking on what the next 50 years has in store for Michigan. In April the series concluded with Ken Burns, the filmmaker best known for historical documentaries aired on PBS on topics ranging from The Civil War to baseball and jazz, speaking about the next 50 years in the United States. In addition to the academic lecture series, the 2010 DeVos Art Lecture in September also commemorated the 50th anniversary with a program featuring Eames Demetrios, grandson of renowned designers Charles and Ray Eames, who had close ties to the West Michigan furniture industry. Demetrios is an award-winning filmmaker, author, artist and three-dimensional storyteller.
Homecoming in October was a great opportunity for celebrating the 50th Anniversary, not only with a resounding victory in the game, the Lakers crushing Northern Michigan 28-7, and one of the most successful concert events in recent Fieldhouse history, with Jason Derulo selling out the venue, but by the debut of Grand Valley's widely acclaimed and just downright fun Lip Dub video, set to the song "Come Sail Away" by Styx (get it, Lakers?).
Lip Dub is a concept that began in Europe and quickly spread worldwide. A song is chosen and participants synchronize their lips and movements to the lyrics while a video crew shoots the performance in one continuous take, without cuts or editing. Kim Roberts, Grand Valley associate professor of communications, was the project supervisor, working as producer with students Chris Coleman and Greg Kort, who came to her with the idea. More than 600 participants, in more than a dozen campus locations, with special effects and set pieces, made the production one of the most elaborate ever undertaken by a college group.
"As a production, the one-shot is seriously challenging," Roberts told Grand Valley Magazine in a 2011 interview. "It all has to be done in front of the camera as it's rolling. The beauty of this for me as an instructor is how much it teaches the values of preproduction, which is 90% of any Lip Dub. This is truly an art form that is interdisciplinary and demands collegiality from all collaborators." She and her students went on to produce another Lip Dub with Clark Retirement Community, the first performed solely by residents of a community for older people.
The Grand Valley Lip Dub quickly went viral on YouTube, generating more than 50,000 views in the first two days of release. By April of 2015, it had received nearly 300,000. The Clark project was featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, Fox News and CNN, as well as postings on popular social media sites, and as of 2015 has broken 1.5 million views on YouTube.
The arts were an important part of the 50th Anniversary celebration. For the first time in GV history, a play was created, directed and performed entirely by students for the Louis Armstrong Theatre main stage. Working with writing professor Austin Bunn and theatre professor Karen Libman, students created "Founding," a story of a group of students trying to write a play commemorating the history of their university.
Another School of Communications student, Jake Wellever, worked under the direction of Professor Deanna Morse in the Film and Video program to develop a short animation titled "Shaping the Landscape," tracing the physical development of the Allendale campus. A 50th Anniversary two-CD set featuring professor and university carillonneur Julianne VandenWyngaard on the Cook and Beckering Family Carillons was issued. An Alumni Invitational Exhibition featured new work by former students. And in April of 2011, the university's music department hosted a gala concert featuring more than 250 of its current vocal and instrumental performers.
Watch the Grand Valley Lip Dub here. The Clark Retirement Home Lip Dub, as well as one produced for the city of Grand Rapids which also received production help from Roberts and Grand Valley students, can be found by searching YouTube.
In the spring of 2011, the Grand Valley Review, published by university faculty since 1974, produced a special edition to commemorate the 50th anniversary and mark the publication's final issue. Containing historical photos, essays about aspects of the development of educational philosophy at Grand Valley, poems and nostalgic notes, the issue also provides a cumulative index to the GV Review through the years.
The 2011 President's Ball in February commemorated the 50th anniversary, as well as celebrating a milestone of its own. The 25th annual event was held in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids, attracting 4,000 revelers.
President Thomas Haas also issued his annual service challenge as part of the celebration, inviting students, graduates, staff and faculty to engage in 50 hours of service to the community and organizing 50 volunteer events. 655 volunteers provided 25,733 hours to 930 community organizations, and had an economic impact of $519,151.
A new initiative to strengthen connections between students and alumni also was put into planning stages, and launched in early 2012. Laker for a Lifetime is a program for current students, alumni, parents, and faculty members to help them realize their importance in shaping the university's future. Activities include volunteering time in the community, participating in student organizations, and financial support. “From the moment you start here, and for the rest of your life, you’re a Laker for a lifetime," said Chris Barbee, Director of Alumni Relations. "And that’s the exciting part, you can play a role in Grand Valley’s future, whether you’re a student, alum, administrator, faculty or staff member – we’re all in this together.”
Events to celebrate the 50th anniversary were organized for alumni in cities including Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New York and Traverse City. Nearly 150 attended a regional celebration in Detroit in early September.
One of the more lasting tributes to the milestone, and the attention it brought to the university's earliest days, was the establishment three years later of Founder's Day, a new tradition to celebrate the efforts of L. William Seidman, widely acknowledged as "the father of Grand Valley," and the nearly 300 community members who supported his vision. The inaugural event was held on the Allendale campus on October 10, 2013 and included the unveiling of an outdoor statue of Seidman near the Cook Carillon Tower. The event was celebrated again in 2014, and is planned to continue every October to honor the first meeting of the original "Committee to Establish a Four-Year College" in October 1958.
The academic year 2010-11, the officially designated 50th Anniversary Celebration Year, closed with an appropriately golden announcement. In anticipation of the celebration, GVSU launched its first comprehensive campaign, Shaping our Future, to provide momentum for the university well into the next 50 years. In June 2011 it was announced that the campaign greatly surpassed its original goals, raising $95.3 million. 17,000 donors, a new record, contributed to the campaign, which was launched in 2007 to help fund the new library, a new building for the business school, and other capital projects, academic programs, centers and endowed chairs, plus 90 new private scholarships.
"Our 50th Anniversary Comprehensive Campaign is poised to exceed its $50 million goal," said President Thomas J. Haas in his annual welcome address to faculty and staff in the fall of 2010, "made possible by a stunning 50% giving level by faculty and staff -- a percentage nearly unheard-of at a public university. That's three very nifty fifties: 50%, $50 million, in our 50th year."
The original goal was $50 million, then stretched to $75 million, eventually topping $95 million. Like the 50 years that preceded it, support for the university in the West Michigan community was astounding, the results of which are the topic of the remainder of this 5-year update.
Shaping our Future was the first campaign in the university's history to support a broad array of programs and projects in a comprehensive, multi-year effort. The cornerstone of the campaign was the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.
On September 21, 2010, almost 50 years to the day after the Michigan legislature approved the establishment of Grand Valley State College in August of 1960, campus and community leaders symbolically broke ground for the new building. A crowd of about 400 gathered to watch President Thomas J. Haas, Provost Gayle R. Davis and others turn shovels of dirt to celebrate the start of construction.
The previous February, the GV Board of Trustees approved the selection of SHW Group to spearhead the project. It was the first Grand Valley commission for SHW, an interdisciplinary company of architects, engineers, planners and educators with an extensive background in the design of innovative and student-friendly educational buildings. Based in Texas (and since acquired by a large Canadian company), the firm's Detroit office was the lead for the Grand Valley library project. Grand Valley Dean of University Libraries Lee Van Orsdel remembers being impressed with them from their very first interview. "They really listened to our goals and ideas," she said in an April 2015 conversation for this update. "They were the only ones who got it when I talked about retail concepts and retail behavior."
Van Orsdel came to Grand Valley as Dean of University Libraries in 2005 with building a new library as part of the job description. A veteran of academic libraries in Kentucky and Alabama, with a deep background in analyzing library trends and effective practices, she came to Grand Valley with very definite ideas about how students learn. She found fertile ground here for some radical notions. At the groundbreaking, Provost Gayle R. Davis called the library "the intellectual heart of campus." For Van Orsdel and the team that developed the plans for the new library, the lifeblood that flows through that heart is students. The building they envisioned, and what came to life on the Allendale campus, is completely dedicated to the needs of the students. Van Orsdel uses an unorthodox analogy. "Think of a shopping mall," she said. "Everything, the kiosks, the layout, encourages you to see others shopping and makes you want to shop too." In her concept, "Students see each other learning."
The Pew Library was created as a place for students to learn by themselves. "It makes learning visible," explained Van Orsdel. "We gave students permission to make the building their own." There are 31 different kinds of seating, everything moveable, to suit every type of learning and studying style. Furniture stays where students move it, only reset once a semester. Quiet nooks and crannies for individual study are tucked throughout the 150,000 sq. ft. building, but a major part of the plan is flexible collaborative space, including a wide range of technology to encourage working together. All the library assistants are students, who are rigorously trained to assist their fellow students in finding for themselves the resources they need. Everything is designed to encourage interaction. "It is a place for students to learn by themselves and together," explains Van Orsdel. "90% of learning takes place outside of class."
It was a risk to undertake a project that undermines the familiar hierarchy of a traditional library. Van Orsdel visited libraries throughout the country seeking a truly student-centered model, without finding one. "We wanted to give students permission to make this building their own -- to get out of their way and turn it over to them." It was a goal embraced by a university whose history is threaded with educational innovation. "It took a brave university to do this," she said in the 2015 interview. "But that's in the nature of Grand Valley -- innovation and dedication to students. They didn't blink, the donors didn't blink."
Fortunately, less than two years after the library opened in June 2013, the risk seems to have paid off. Over two million visitors have been logged, compared to about 400,000 per year in the Zumberge facility, and the library's User Experience Team, including staff and students, have collected data that confirm the flexible spaces and innovative technologies are working. Hundreds of libraries from all over the country are sending people to look at the concept. In August 2015, a three-day conference at GVSU on planning and building libraries attracted participants from a wide spectrum of fields. "It's an environment unlike any library I've ever been in," said Van Orsdel. "I'm just grateful it worked! It's changed the lives of students outside of class."
The library project also dramatically changed the physical character of the Allendale campus. It accomplished two very important goals for the university. First, it created a "town square" bounded by the library, Student Services Building, Kirkhof Student Center and Cook-DeWitt Center, presided over by the Cook Carillon Tower, that has become a vibrant gathering place on the campus. Second, it became the single biggest stormwater runoff remediation project to date.
In 2006, a stormwater advisory group was formed by faculty members to work with the University's Facilities Planning department. They developed the goal of returning Grand Valley to runoff levels present in 1960, before construction of the new college began. Prompted by serious damage to the ravine infrastructure around which the campus was originally organized, the group committed to achieving the goal by making remediation part of every construction project.
"As the library is being built, a stormwater pipe will take water from the parking lots that was once directed to the Little Mac ravines and redirect it to a wetland complex on Pierce Street," said Peter Wampler, Associate Professor of Geology and part of the advisory group, in an article in Grand Valley Magazine in 2011. "This is a huge amount of water being redirected; it is a very exciting change."
The 1960s-era Zumberge Library, built when enrollment hovered around 5000 students, closed its doors on April 26, 2013. To commemorate the event, staff members were invited on Monday, April 29, to choose a favorite book from the shelves and participate in a ceremonial walk to a temporary library access center in Kirkhof Center. In May, the daunting task of loading nearly 180,000 items into the automatic storage and retrieval system within the new Pew Library began, preparing for the grand opening in June and emptying the former library to begin its new function as the administrative center of the university.
The 64,000 sq. ft. James H. Zumberge Hall was completely renovated, and a 26,000 sq. ft. addition was created to bring together, in one building, 15 administrative departments that had formerly been dispersed over two campuses. In May 2014 the new facility opened as an administrative hub to serve faculty, staff and students in one central location.
Students enjoy the outdoor seating created by improvements to Zumberge Pond. More about Grand Valley's stormwater management goals can be found at http://www.gvsu.edu/stormwater. The history of the physical structures at Grand Valley and the roots of the sustainability movement are detailed in the original 50th anniversary history in the Sidebar "The Physical Grand Valley."
The crowning achievement in the massive effort to construct the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons came in September of 2014, when the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the project LEED Platinum status, the top level of certification in the international rating system for high-performance green buildings. It was Grand Valley's first LEED Platinum building, and the first library in Michigan to earn the ranking.
The following month, GVSU libraries collectively became the first academic libraries to receive the State Librarian's Excellence Award for superior customer service. The award, presented each year by the Library of Michigan Foundation, is usually bestowed on public libraries. "We won our award based on the services we provide and the new way we are looking at services and the way we are responding to student needs," said Julie Garrison, Associate Dean of Research and Instructional Services. The award recognized not only the Mary Idema Pew Learning and Information Commons, but also applauded the Special Collections and University Archives located in Seidman House, Steelcase Library on the GVSU Pew Campus and the Frey Foundation Learning Center at Seidman College. Two years previously the GVSU library system also had been recognized with the 2012 Excellence in Academic Libraries award from the Association of College and Research Libraries.
As GVSU was celebrating its 50th anniversary year in 2010-11, the country, and indeed the world, was still feeling the effects of the worst financial recession since World War II. Consumer uncertainty about investment and consumption led to questions about the value of a college education that left many students with crushing debt. Universities nationwide were faced with eroding levels of state funding and rising costs while struggling to avoid tuition increases. While undertaking drastic budget containment measures and adding fees, many were forced to increase tuition 30% and higher.
Grand Valley had experienced budget crises many times before, as detailed in the main part of this 50-year history, but always remained faithful to its mission of providing a quality educational experience at a cost well below other institutions in the state and across the country. While tuition did rise 5.3% in 2010-2011, GVSU was still well below the state average at the 15 public universities. To help achieve that goal, all university employees agreed to pay freezes, including faculty, professional and administrative staff, professional support staff, campus police and security, and maintenance and grounds staff. Their sacrifices helped offset the continuing slide in state support for higher education. In 2010-11, 22% of the university's budget came from state aid; in 1991, it was 47%. In the spring of 2011, responding to proposed further cuts in state aid, GVSU President Thomas J. Haas pointed out that Grand Valley's administrative costs as part of the budget were unchanged from 1994-95, while at the same time the university's cost per degree awarded had dropped by 15%.
The annual Dashboard Accountability Report is available along with other statistical data about Grand Valley's performance.
In that fall's Dashboard Accountability Report, a practice President Haas introduced in 2007, a review of the previous ten years of higher education indicated that GVSU had been a top performer. Annual enrollment in Michigan's 15 public universities had increased by 25,000 students, nearly 6,000 of whom, or 23%, were at Grand Valley. GVSU also had the largest share of increase in degrees awarded, and had kept tuition below the state average even though it received the lowest state funding per student.
President Haas and Provost Gayle R. Davis also introduced the Grand Finish scholarship for incoming freshmen, offering a $1,000 grant for students who complete 90 credits by the end of their junior year. "This is a promise I'm making," Haas told the Lanthorn in August 2010, "and I think it's a very critical one." The incentive not only decreases costs for students, but also for the university, as four-year graduation rates create more stable enrollment levels.
Despite the prevailing economic uncertainty, enrollment at Grand Valley continued to climb. Each fall saw record numbers of new freshmen, continuing a two-decade climb that marked the university's largest enrollment increase in its history. Part of what made Grand Valley so attractive to students was its continued ranking as among America's best college values. By fall of 2011, GVSU had been named to the Top 100 Best College Buys for 16 years in a row by Institutional Research & Evaluation, Inc., a Georgia-based company that uses cost-benefit analysis to rank schools that provide high academic performance coupled with low costs. Grand Valley is a regular on many national rankings lists, summarized on the accountability page on the GV website and in the final chapter of this history update. “Our academic performance data place Grand Valley in the top four of Michigan’s 15 campuses while our tuition is below the state university average,” Haas told the Lanthorn. “This is why I say that Grand Valley is a grand value.”
All silver linings have a cloud, however, and the good news about Grand Valley's popularity with students was not-so-welcome news for the physical capacity of the university's campuses. "Grand Valley has a significant shortage of space for classrooms, offices, and student support," said James Moyer, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning, in a Lanthorn interview in the spring of 2011, and just two years later, in April 2013, groundbreaking ceremonies were held on the Allendale campus for a new 151,500 s.f. building to house classrooms, faculty and student research laboratories, faculty offices, teaching laboratories, study spaces and a greenhouse.
The new Science Laboratory Building, named in April 2015 for former dean and longtime faculty member P. Douglas Kindschi, is designed to meet the demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, as well as the health professions field. Of the 86 undergraduate programs and 34 graduate programs offered by GVSU, more than 40 touch on the STEM and health professions in some way. "The need was to support the incredible growth you can see downtown," said James Moyer in a 2015 interview, referring to the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. Constructed in 2003 on Grand Rapids' "Medical Mile," the programs at the Center grew exponentially in the five-year period covered by this history update.
In addition to a sold-out lecture to a crowd of more than 3800 people in the Grand Valley Fieldhouse on November 13, 2013, astrophysicist and well-known space exploration expert Neil deGrasse Tyson met with students in more intimate venues during his visit to the campus, sponsored by the student organization Center for Inquiry at Grand Valley, with support from the Physics Club, Spotlight Productions, Office of Student Life, Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, college of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Frederik Meijer Honors College and Center for Inquiry Michigan.
In the fall of 2010, an agreement with Michigan State University developed a joint graduate certificate in clinical research trials management, spurred by the construction of MSU's College of Human Medicine just down the street from the Cook-DeVos Center. The following year GVSU became the first university in West Michigan to offer a graduate-level degree program in biomedical engineering, the only program in Michigan to focus on medical device design and development. In 2013 a new Master's in Public Health program was approved by the Board of Control. "We made a commitment to health sciences in West Michigan," said Provost Davis in a 2015 interview for this update, "to support basic science to prepare students for advanced study." She remains committed, however, to Grand Valley's mission of emphasizing professional doctorates over research programs. "For entry-level jobs and licensing, it is expected that students are prepared at a masters or doctoral level, just to get in the door," she explains. "We provide such a great experience for science students that they fly through their licensing exams -- over 90% pass on the first try."
Like all of Grand Valley's new construction, the new science labs building will meet specifications for LEED Silver status, but also reflects some of the thinking developed in the process of planning the new library and other buildings. "With the library project, our goal was reducing energy usage by 50% over the next ASHRAE rules," said James Moyer in a 2015 interview. "We did, and brought what we learned to this building -- the walls, energy systems, mechanical and electrical systems, products." As in the new library, there are student study and collaboration areas everywhere. Outdoor areas are easily accessible, and many indoor areas feature panoramic views of the campus. Visual displays of works in progress and science collections continue a concept begun in the original Loutit Hall of Science in the 1960s.
While the new building is the most visible example of Grand Valley's growth during challenging economic times, other areas of the university's academic curriculum were also expanding. In July 2010, the Board of Trustees approved the university's first completely online degree, a masters in educational technology. It's notable that this innovation came just before the College of Education celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014. When Grand Valley was established, it was intended to be a liberal arts college with little or no professional emphasis (this plan is detailed in the 50th anniversary history). The college adapted to the needs of the region by developing teacher preparation programs in 1964 with 45 elementary and 39 secondary candidates. Today, the College of Education is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and is one of the leading providers of teacher preparation programs in the state of Michigan. In February, 2015 the online graduate program was named as a "2015 Best Online Program" by U.S. News & World Report.
The College of Education also became part of Grand Valley's growth outside West Michigan. In 2013, the GVSU Detroit Center opened, housing classrooms for both the College of Education and the Grand Valley Charter Schools Office. The Center is in an historic building in downtown Detroit and also contains regional offices for the Small Business and Technology Development Center and will serve as a central meeting location for Grand Valley professionals conducting business in southeast Michigan. "Over the last 7-8 years more than half of our first-time freshmen are from the SE side of the state," said Provost Gayle Davis in a 2015 interview. "The Detroit Center is a practical thing for students. Also, it's political. Detroit has to come back, and we can help. It acknowledges the scope of our reach, similar to the Traverse City Center." At the opening ceremonies for the Center, President Thomas Haas expressed similar sentiments. "We need to invest in our young people, we need to invest in our businesses," he told the gathered crowd of dignitaries. "We need to create the talent that's so important to our state, and each region needs that talent. I think that's what we're doing today. We're celebrating a special occasion that will help us educate students and improve our society well into the future."
Charter schools were in the news during the five-year period of this update, and Grand Valley did not escape scrutiny from the media, the Michigan legislature, and the public, questioning the efficiency and accountability of the K-12 public academies established in 1994. GVSU chartered its first three schools in 1995, serving a total of 350 students. In its 20th year as an authorizer, GVSU chartered 63 school buildings, serving over 31,000 students, and is now Michigan's largest charter school authorizer. In early 2015, Grand Valley became the first in the nation to seek accreditation for its charter schools office.
In March, 2015 a team from AdvancED visited GVSU to assess the university’s effectiveness in providing oversight of its charter schools. AdvancED is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Georgia, and is the largest accrediting body in the world. Each year, AdvancED completes hundreds of research-based, rigorous, on-site external reviews of PreK-12 schools and school systems. While the organization has accredited charter schools nationwide, their visit to Grand Valley was the first time a charter school authorizer has gone through the process for accreditation. Grand Valley's Charter School Office earned the team's recommendation for five-year accreditation.
In May of 2015, U.S. News and World Report ranked two open-enrollment high schools chartered by GVSU as the top among Michigan charter schools. Grand River Prep in Grand Rapids and Black River Public School in Holland were ranked third and fourth in the state overall, but were the top two in open-enrollment schools, required to accept all students who choose to attend.
Among the other academic milestones celebrated during the five years of this update, there were several that honored people who have made a significant impact on the growth and development of Grand Valley.
In March of 2010, the College of Interdisciplinary Studies was named to honor Holland residents Jim and Donna Brooks and their family. The Brooks family have been strong supporters of Grand Valley State University for many years. Donna served on the Board of Trustees for 16 years, including two terms as Board Chair. Since 2008, both Donna and Jim have served as co-chairs of the Grand Valley Foundation and have been leaders in several successful development campaigns. The vision and programs of the Brooks College share with the Brooks Family a belief in the importance of international education and cross-cultural understanding, innovation and relevancy in the curriculum, regional collaboration, community development, and application of sustainability best practices.
In November 2014, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Resource Center was named for its founding director, Milton E. Ford, who died the previous March following a battle with cancer. A professor of English and liberal studies during a 40-plus year career at Grand Valley, Ford worked tirelessly to establish not just the LGBT Resource Center but a physical space for it. “We are creating a university that’s making a difference in people’s lives,” said President Haas at the ceremony marking the naming of the Center. “We are able to do that because we have had colleagues like Milt Ford, who had a quiet, persistent way to help us all be a family, a community of Lakers.”
Also in 2014, the Kirkhof College of Nursing celebrated the completion of a $1 million campaign to endow the Bonnie Wesorick Center for Health Care Transformation, named for the founder and chair emerita for the Clinical Practice Model Resource Center in Grand Rapids, and continuing her legacy of creating the best places to give and receive care.
A score of other accomplishments in academic units across the university could be detailed in this five-year update, such as new majors in engineering and religious studies, new graduate programs, new chairs in community philanthropy and entrepreneurship. For further review of the university's achievements and continuing goals, the best place for information is the detailed and comprehensive strategic planning pages on the GVSU website.
Milt Ford, above in 2011, with Wendy Wenner, then interim vice president for Inclusion and Equity, who said at the dedication ceremony that she walked alongside Ford and others who lobbied for a LGBT center. “At one time, his office was the center,” she said. “Under his name on his door in Lake Ontario Hall were the words ‘LGBT Resources.’” Wenner retired as dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies in 2012. Dr. Jesse Bernal was named the second Vice President for Inclusion and Equity in 2015.
Conveniently for this update, a Strategic Plan from 2010-2015 is drawing to a close, and a myriad of assessment activities are underway for a 2016-2021 Strategic Plan.
The 50-year history of Grand Valley compiled for the anniversary celebration began and ended with the words of L. William Seidman, widely acknowledged as the "father of Grand Valley," who died in May of 2009. At a memorial service in Louis Armstrong Theatre in September of that year, it was announced that Richard and Helen DeVos were launching efforts to construct a new building for the Seidman College of Business (SCB) by making a lead gift.
The fundraising efforts became part of the university's first comprehensive campaign, Shaping Our Future, detailed earlier in this update. For SCB, the unprecedented success of the campaign meant a splendid new building on the west bank of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, and a place to bring together under one roof the academic programs and business outreach centers that had been scattered throughout the university over the past 40 years.
A School of Business and Economics was established at Grand Valley in 1970 as a further effort to respond to the needs of the West Michigan community (as previously mentioned, the College of Education was the first departure from Grand Valley's original mission as exclusively a liberal arts college). It became the Seidman School of Business in 1979, merging graduate and undergraduate programs, and by 2011 the college had grown to more than 3300 students, and had earned accreditation in both business and accounting.
More than 600 donors responded to the fundraising challenge laid down by Richard and Helen DeVos, including former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. On May 25, 2011, ground was broken for the L. William Seidman Center, a $40 million, 125,000+ sq. ft. four-story building designed by Robert A.M Stern Architects.
Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, Stern and his associates created a traditional design that echoes the overhanging roofs and low-slung profile of Prairie School architecture, as well as notes from Grand Rapids' historic industrial warehouses that the building replaced. It is organized in an S-shape that maximizes natural light, and includes two courtyards.
"It's a very traditional building," said Diana Lawson, who became Dean of SCB in 2014, a year after the Seidman Center opened. "Students really like this very professional atmosphere," she explained in a 2015 interview for this update. "It gets them in a professional mindset." Most students spend their first two years in Allendale completing foundation requirements of their curriculum. "During those first years students have the true campus experience," said Lawson, "student life, dorms, dining halls. Then they move into professional programs, transition into the work environment here." The building's location near the heart of the city's business district is key for the college. "We're close to the business community, so professionals can come in to speak, serve as adjunct faculty," she continued. "It's an important relationship." Though her tenure is relatively new, Dr. Lawson has quickly observed a key aspect of the development of SCB and Grand Valley. "It was a community initiative that got this university started," she mused, and has found that community support is still strong. "The community put their dollars behind this, and if I ask, our advisory committee and alumni are always there."
Among the highlights of the new building are a Financial Markets Center, more popularly known as the "Trading Room," which creates a stimulating atmosphere with flashing screens displaying indices for the latest stock market information and clocks for seven time zones. Students manage an endowment of $250,000 to gain experience in trading. In addition to several different types of teaching spaces, including innovative cluster classrooms, there is a large flexible space, the Loosemore Forum, used by community and university organizations. The building houses both the Michigan and West Michigan offices of the Small Business Development Center, the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Center for Leadership, the Family Business Alliance, the Family-Owned Business Institute, the Koeze Business Ethics Initiative, and the Van Andel Global Trade Center, which celebrated 15 years of helping companies increase international business and become more competitive in the global marketplace in February, 2015.
Shortly after the new L. William Seidman Center opened its doors on October 9, 2013, the Princeton Review named SCB as one of the "Best 295 Business Schools" of 2013. The rankings were based on a survey of business school students conducted during the previous three academic years. The ranking continued in 2014. In May 2013, the Seidman Center earned LEED Certified Gold status from the U.S. Green Building Council.
When the Seidman Center earned a Gold rating in the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED program, it was continuing a commitment to LEED certification that began in 2003 with the Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy (MAREC) center established by GVSU in Muskegon. The university has since resolved that all new construction will meet a minimum status of Silver in the rating system for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an internationally recognized certification system for environmentally sustainable construction projects. A list of LEED certified buildings at Grand Valley is available. .
The physical environment of Grand Valley has shaped its character from its earliest days, and continues to influence the most basic principles that underlie the institution, as detailed in the "Sidebars" section of the 50th anniversary history titled "The Physical Grand Valley: Environment & Architecture." During the five years covered in this update, dedication to the concept of sustainability continued to result in smart, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and people-friendly buildings, as well as national and international recognition.
Proximity to Michigan's Great Lakes, the world's largest surface freshwater system, has certainly played a role in Grand Valley's deep understanding of environmental responsibility. In addition to MAREC (more about the roots of MAREC can be found in the 50th anniversary history, section "2001-Present"), the university has invested significant resources in research that benefits the entire Great Lakes ecosystem at the Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute (the establishment of AWRI in 1985 is also covered in the anniversary history). In 2013, a new Field Station Building was constructed at AWRI, adding 14,700 sq. ft. to the compound on Muskegon Lake and including three research laboratories, an innovative "mesocosm" facility, and much-needed offices, storage space and conference rooms. The building was certified LEED Gold.
Dr. Alan Steinman, Director of the AWRI, echoes Seidman Dean Diana Lawson's observations about local support for these ambitious endeavors. "This was a community project," he said in a 2015 interview for this update. "The people supported us. We are incredibly fortunate to have a donor base that believes in our mission, and generously provides us with both moral and financial support." The new laboratory facilities result in "better science, better collaboration, and better solutions for water: our most precious natural resource," he wrote in the AWRI Year in Review for 2013.
While the missions and academic goals of AWRI and MAREC are separate, there is a natural synergy between the two organizations, evident in their collaboration with each other and with Michigan State University and the University of Michigan in a $3.3 million, three-year research project launched in 2011. Launch is the correct verb here, as the project is a six-ton, 20-ft. by 10-ft. research buoy in Lake Michigan that collects real-time data on wind, water quality and the flight paths of birds and bats over the Great Lakes.
Annis Water Resources Institute established its own buoy-based observatory in Muskegon Lake in 2010, funded by the US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and operating with joint support from NOAA and the University of Michigan. A web site provides access to the meteorological and water data for research and education activities and is intended to be used by universities, colleges, K-12 schools, and the general public.
Together, AWRI and MAREC have made Grand Valley a central player in understanding and promoting what has come to be known as the "blue water economy." In an article in Grand Valley Magazine, Summer 2012, Steinman explained that keeping our water clean and using it in a sustainable, responsible way is a lynchpin in the blue water economy. "Our work can help identify how to clean the water that is impaired, what restoration activities are needed, and the economic value associated with our water resources that don't pass through a traditional market."
For an in-depth look at Grand Valley and the Blue Water Economy, check out Grand Valley Magazine's Summer 2012 issue.
Since 2010, Grand Valley has annually been named one of the country's most environmentally responsible colleges by The Princeton Review. Areas of evaluation include the institution’s commitment to building to LEED standards, sustainability committees, environmental literacy programs, the use of renewable energy resources and recycling and conservation programs. In 2012 The Sierra Club, the largest national grassroots environmental organization in the U.S, named GVSU one of the country’s greenest universities, placing it 16th out of 96 schools, the highest-ranking Michigan institution on the list and ahead of universities such as Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. Grand Valley has made the Sierra’s Club’s annual list of “Coolest Schools,” ever since, a list that ranks schools that have a strong commitment to environmental improvement, are helping to solve climate problems and are making significant efforts to operate sustainably.
Activities that help Grand Valley maintain its commitment to sustainability include Recyclemania, a nationwide recycling contest. In 2014, GVSU ranked first in the state and in the top 35 nationwide (for universities with more than 20,000 students) in the composting and waste minimization categories. Since 2010, the GV College of Education has housed Groundswell, a coalition of 40 community partners that creates opportunities for hands-on environmental learning for students throughout Kent County, enhancing student learning while empowering students to develop solutions to environmental programs in their communities. Groundswell also offers teachers professional development in place-based education and academic service learning.
In 2012, a new tradition was established at all home football games. The zero-waste initiative is part of an ongoing effort to recycle and compost as much waste as possible at large events on campus. At the Homecoming Game that fall, over 70 student and staff volunteers monitored nearly 30 recycle stations before and during the football game. The Laker Marching Band participated by forming the universal recycling symbol on the field at halftime. 59% of waste from the game, nearly 1.5 tons, was diverted from the waste stream as the result of the joint effort by the Office of Sustainability, Athletics, Campus Dining, News and Information Services and Facilities Services.
A major step toward moving sustainability more deeply into academia was taken in 2014 with the establishment of the Campus Sustainability Advisory Council. 25 faculty and staff members, including representatives from all eight colleges and a wide variety of units and divisions, focus on planning and advancing sustainability as a campus-wide goal and value. Jim Bachmeier, vice president for Finance and Administration, and co-chair of the council with Norman Christopher, executive director of the Office of Sustainability Practices, explained in a 2014 press release. “We’ve done an incredible job at being environmentally sustainable through recycling, composting and energy-saving efforts," he said, "but it’s now time to look at how sustainability is integrated into all facets of campus.”
Establishment of the council came as the Office of Sustainability Practices, formerly the Sustainable Community Development Initiative, announced its name change. Anne Hiskes, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, said the name change is part of a comprehensive plan to strengthen and broaden Grand Valley’s achievements in the areas of triple-bottom-line sustainability. “Going from an initiative to an office was a natural evolution,” Hiskes said. “We plan to better integrate sustainability programming with curriculum and enhance high impact learning opportunities for students. We are excited about the potential of the office to engage the campus community in a discussion of sustainability-related goals.”
At the end of 2010, Grand Valley State University became the first public university in Michigan to be certified by the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program (MTESP). The program aims to promote and communicate best management practices, adopt pollution prevention practices, control potential sources of pollution, comply with environmental laws and regulations, and reduce waste. In 2012 the university's Student Recreation Fields became the first Michigan location certified as a sustainable site, one of the first in the country to be part of the pilot project SITES, the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an interdisciplinary partnership led by the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas in Austin, and the United States Botanic Garden. It is modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program and was formed to create voluntary national guidelines and performance benchmarks for sustainable land design, construction and maintenance practices.
For a look at sustainable features on Grand Valley's Allendale Campus, check out the Green Tour Map.
By scrolling over buildings, viewers can learn that the Connection recycles their used kitchen oil to be made into bio-fuel. Across campus at the Recreation Center the SPARKLE bike, which was created by movement science students, can power an MP3 player or smartphone from the energy generated by pedaling.
The Sustainable Agriculture Project provides produce for campus dining halls and for weekly farmers markets in the summer and fall. In the winter of 2015, GVSU launched the Sustainable Food Systems Certificate, an interdisciplinary 15-credit program for students and community members that includes courses in plant biotechnology, international food and culture, the science of soil, and sociology and food.
Grand Valley State University was recognized at the United Nations University 2014 Global RCE Conference for preparing students for the workforce by teaching sustainability skill sets. Representatives from 77 countries and 129 Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs) gathered at the conference in Okayama, Japan, in November. Norman Christopher, director of the Office of Sustainability Practices, gave a presentation, “Sustainability Skill Sets and Jobs in the New Economy,” at the conference and accepted an RCE Recognition Award that acknowledged the project. “We learned at this conference that West Michigan is having a global impact; people are recognizing our collective efforts and impact on an international scale,” said Christopher. A group of non- and for-profit organizations in Grand Rapids was the first to establish an RCE in the United States. An RCE is a network of public, private and higher education organizations that facilitate and implement education for sustainable development in local and regional communities. Members include Grand Valley, Kendall College of Art and Design, City of Grand Rapids, Hope College, Calvin College, Western Michigan University and Catalyst Partners.
While huge projects like the Pew Library, Kindschi Science Labs and Seidman Center had an impact on GVSU campus-wide, smaller buildings added greatly to the quality of student life in several ways. New living centers at the southern end of the Allendale campus added 214 apartments in 2010 (just in time to take advantage of a freeze in on-campus housing rates, the first in the university's history, in fall 2011). Renovations and additions to Au Sable Hall added 22,000 s.f. in 2014. A second floor and other renovations at Kleiner Commons were part of an 18,000 sq. ft. addition to the dining venue in 2014 and 2015. Adjacent to the Science Labs project, a new version of the University Bookstore opened in the spring of 2015 in a two-story building that also houses a coffee shop and restaurant. "We've put a plan in place to raise our dining to the level of the academic buildings," said Tom Minor, general manager of campus dining, in an interview with The Lanthorn.
But perhaps the biggest impact on student life that came during the five-year period of this update was the myGVSU Survey, the fourth campus climate study since 1994 (climate is used to define attitudes, behaviors, and standards and practices of employees and students of an institution). Nearly a third of all campus community members participated in the survey, including more than 6,000 students, responding to questions related to learning, living and working at Grand Valley. Students, faculty and staff members participated in the online, anonymous survey during the first months of 2011, and results were presented that fall. A Campus Climate Implementation Committee was formed to develop action plans for faculty, staff and students, as well as a Gender Identity and Expression Committee.
Some of the findings highlighted in the summary include that 88 percent of all respondents were comfortable with the overall campus climate. In addition, 76 percent of respondents indicated comfort with the climate in the department/work unit, and 86 percent of faculty and students expressed comfort with the classroom climate. A higher percentage of faculty, staff, and student respondents felt that GVSU was committed to diversity/inclusion (90%, 94%, and 88%, respectively) compared to a similar question asked with the 2005 climate study (63%, 67%, and 61%, respectively).
All results of the survey, along with analysis and action plans, can be found at www.gvsu.edu/mygvsu.
Comments and ideas from thousands of survey participants in prior climate studies have helped to make GVSU more welcoming and inclusive. Some of these positive changes include the creation or enhancement of the Inclusion and Equity Division; campus lighting for extra safety; the Children’s Enrichment Center building; an employee salary review for gender equity; international students and faculty recruitment; the LGBT Resource Center; the Team Against Bias (TAB); household member benefits; the Allies and Advocates program; services for student veterans; inclusion advocates on search committees; the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association; and services for nontraditional and returning students.
Among the ways in which Grand Valley works toward providing a positive climate is by encouraging students in physical and creative interaction, including sports and artistic opportunities.
In September of 2012, Laker football fans were treated to their first game in the newly renovated Lubbers Stadium. A crowd of 15,139, the second largest in the school's history, watched the Lakers beat Notre Dame (Ohio) and admired the expanded seating capacity and new turf surfaces. Former president Arend D. Lubbers was honored at halftime in a rededication ceremony for the stadium he championed in the early 1970s.
While GV football was the center of attention in the first decade of the 21st century, in the years covered by this update other sports brought national and international attention to the university. In 2008, Grand Valley committed significant resources to a facility for students to participate in a wide variety of sports and fitness activities in the 138,000 sq. ft. Laker Turf Building. In June 2011 the building was renamed the Kelly Family Sports Center in honor of Brian Kelly, who was head football coach at Grand Valley for 13 years and led the Lakers to two national championships (highlighted in the 50th Anniversary history). Student Recreation Fields dedicated in the fall of 2011 include areas for rugby, lacrosse, track, and softball, as well as picnic shelters and a building for concessions, locker rooms and scoring. The project also features a sophisticated stormwater management system and fields using recycled rubber and synthetic turf, earning recognition from the Sustainable Sites Initiative, covered in the "Grand Valley is Green" section of this history update. The investment paid off with a number of GV athletic achievements away from the football field.
In June of 2015, for the tenth time in the past 12 years, Grand Valley was honored for having the top athletic program among NCAA Division II institutions, a Division II record. The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) awards the Learfield Sports Director's Cup using a scoring system based on the national finishes of seven men's and seven women's sports. GVSU President Thomas J. Haas was named to the President's Council for NCAA Division II in 2010-11, and assigned to the Planning, Finance and Diversity Committees, reflecting his commitment to planning, gender and minority issues. In 2013-14 he was elected Chair of the Council.
Grand Valley's sports achievements are covered in detail in a dedicated website,http://www.gvsulakers.com.
Among the high points for the five years covered in this update are national championships in Men's Ice Hockey, Women's Soccer, Women's Cross Country, Women's Volleyball, Women's Basketball, Women's Indoor Track and Field, Men's LaCrosse and even Dodgeball. More about GVSU Club Sports, ranging from Quidditch to Sailing, can be found at http://www.gvsuclubsports.com.
In 2013, GVSU became the first Division II school to join the You Can Play Project, whose mission is to "ensure equality, respect, and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation." In 2012, the Laker Baseball team traveled to Cuba for a humanitarian mission and to play against the Cuban national team.
Many long-time Grand Valley supporters and alumni hold a soft spot in their heart for the first athletic endeavor in which the small college in the cornfields began to participate in national intercollegiate competition, crew. From 1967, when a small crew house was constructed on the Grand River, rowing teams from Grand Valley have met and bested boats from the nation's most august schools. In 2013, GVSU women rowing teams won two gold medals and captured the Women's Points Trophy at the 75th Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta in Philadelphia, the largest collegiate regatta in North America. That summer men's and women's teams participated in two of the most prestigious events in the rowing world: the Royal Henley and Henley Women's Regattas at Henley-on-Thames in England. The Women's Varsity Eight took second place in the finals, giving way to Oxford University.
In the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, 2009 Grand Valley graduate Sarah Zelenka competed with partner Sara Hendershot in the women's pair event, finishing just shy of a medal at fourth. Zelenka didn't begin rowing until she came to GVSU and joined the club. "Because it was a club sport … you had to work really hard and had to pay your own way," she told the Lanthorn in an interview before the Olympic Games. "All that hard work transferred to the national team level and having to work that hard in college helped out with the elevated work that we had to do on the national team. It brought good habits." Zelenka was the second Grand Valley rower to participate in the Olympic Games, following Barry Klein, a 1988 alumnus who served as an alternate for the U.S. men's team at the 1996 games in Atlanta.
Also competing in the 2012 London games was 2009 graduate Chris Hammer, who finished ninth in the 1500-meter race in the Paralympic Games. Hammer was a five-time All-American while at Grand Valley, finishing in the top seven of the 3,000-meter steeplechase every year of his career at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Grand Valley also sent its Executive Chef, Paul Mixa, to the games, part of a team of international chefs selected to prepare dishes for athletes who competed in the Olympics from August through September.
The 25th anniversary of a partnership between Kingston University in London and GVSU was celebrated at the 2012 Olympics with Bodies in Motion, a collaboration of simultaneous interactive music and dance performances in Allendale, Amsterdam and London during three days in July, part of a larger Cultural Olympiad project.
As a result of that project, the GVSU Chamber Orchestra was invited to England in 2013 for a weeklong performance tour. A professor at the London College of Music told the Lanthorn that he invited the group to perform there because he was impressed with their contribution to the webcast of Bodies in Motion. The Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of associate professor Henry Duitman, also performed at Kingston University and at St. John's Church in Notting Hill.
Two national tours by Grand Valley performance ensembles were also highlights of this five-year period. Twenty-nine students under the direction of GVSU Spanish professor Jason Yancey and theater professors James Bell and Karen Libman traveled to the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas for the Siglo de Oro Spanish Drama Festival in March 2012. They were the only U.S. theater group invited by the Department of the Interior's National Park Service, which also funded the travel, to perform at the festival.
In the spring of 2014, Grand Valley's nationally renowned New Music Ensemble launched its Music in Our Parks Project, the culmination of a two-year process to commission five composers to create music inspired by national parks in the southwest. Their music, along with others influenced by the natural environment, was presented in thirteen concerts over ten days at both indoor and outdoor venues in five national parks, plus a final concert at Colorado College with the acclaimed Bowed Piano Ensemble. The New Music Ensemble took part in a performance in June 2011 (Inuksuit, for 99 percussionists) in Morningside Park in New York City which was named one of the top ten classical music events for 2011 by New York Magazine.
In addition to the performing arts, the climate on Grand Valley's campuses is greatly enhanced by a wide variety of visual arts. The development of the GVSU art collection is covered in detail in the 50th Anniversary Sidebar section titled "The Arts at Grand Valley," but in 2012 the GVSU Art Gallery launched a new mobile application that provides access to over 12,000 works of art, most of which are on view in university buildings on campuses in Allendale, Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, Traverse City and Detroit. The Art at GVSU app project was a collaboration between the GVSU Art Gallery, the School of Computing and Information Systems and Collective Access, a collection management software system that is widely adopted by galleries world-wide. Initially launched for the Apple iPhone, it is now available for Android devices as well.
Grand Valley's Galleries & Collections staff were kept busy during the five years covered in this update installing artwork in all the buildings constructed during that time, and hosting receptions for donors and artists to showcase each project. The extensive collections of local, regional, national and international art that hang in every Grand Valley building encourage appreciation and understanding of art and its role in society through direct engagement with original works of art.
Grand Valley also maintains six exhibition galleries, and in 2012 opened an expansion to the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery in the DeVos Center on the downtown Pew Campus. The gallery is devoted to the works of renowned American Impressionist Mathias J. Alten, who lived and worked in Grand Rapids in the late 19th and early 20th century. Grand Valley now holds the largest public Alten collection in the world, as well as his family's archive collection of photos and letters.
The arts in the wider community benefit from Grand Valley's presence in a number of ways. In 2010, the newest sculpture in the Community Legends Project was unveiled near the Eberhard Center just west of the Blue Bridge. The 7-ft. bronze depicts Noahquageshik, also known as Chief Noonday (ca. 1770-1840), an influential leader of the Grand River Ottawa Anishinabe who led bands of the Ottawa throughout the Grand River basin. Created by Maryland artist Antonio Tobias Mendez, the sculpture is part of a community-wide project to commission works honoring significant figures in local history over the next 50 years.
Each fall since 2003, the community is invited to a showcase of distinguished writers, poets, musicians, dancers, artists and scholars in the Fall Arts Celebration. Chaired by Teri Losey, Executive Associate to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees, the annual event aims to enrich the arts and humanities of West Michigan and broaden horizons, help make sense of the new and unfamiliar, reflect on the past and charm with the classics.
Since its inception, Grand Valley's Pew Campus has played host to artwork from around the world for ArtPrize, an open competition that has brought international attention to Grand Rapids beginning in 2009. In 2014, Jim Cogswell, University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design professor, created River Tattoo, an 85-ft. piece celebrating the Grand River and the Blue Bridge in the windows of Eberhard Center. The artwork was also the backdrop and inspiration for a composition competition and performance by the GVSU New Music Ensemble.
As this update was being written, a long-term project involving 18 acres of land just north of GVSU's Health Campus on the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids was in the works. In conjunction with partners in the area including Spectrum Health, Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine and the Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Valley plans to expand classrooms and laboratories on the site. In December 2014, as one of the last pieces of property acquisition for the project fell into place, GVSU President Thomas J. Haas explained that, “Grand Valley is the region’s number one provider of health care professionals and we have a mission to continue our leadership role. This property deal is a key part in our plan to expand our Center for Health Sciences building on Michigan and admit more students to our high-demand programs."
Plans were also announced for new housing and academic buildings on the Allendale campus, and ground was being broken for a privately developed 112-unit student housing complex for GVSU on the west side of downtown Grand Rapids.
In an interview for this update in June 2015, President Haas mused about the incredible burst of building and growth at GVSU in the past five years. "It is all strategically and programmatically driven," he emphasized. "We are investing in the long-term viability and relevance of Grand Valley." The description will be familiar to all who have worked with the president (trained as a scientist and a commissioned officer in the military) in his time at GVSU. One look at the Strategic Positioning section of the Grand Valley website will confirm that assessment, accountability and transparency have been watchwords of his administration.
The 2015-2016 academic year marks Haas's tenth year as president. During his tenure, 40% of all students who are alumni of Grand Valley have graduated. To celebrate his anniversary, he is embarking on "The Power of 10," a 10-city tour to meet with alumni all over the U.S., beginning in Chicago on August 10. "And speaking of the power of ten," he laughed in the June 2015 interview, "our endowment has topped $100 million!"
President Haas has good reason to look at the past five years with a certain sense of satisfaction. Grand Valley is repeatedly cited in "Best of" lists and national rankings as among the finest public universities in the country, both overall and for a number of specific programs. The 2014-2015 Accountability Report highlights just a few of the most recent: In 2014 GVSU was named "One of America's 100 Best College Buys" by the Institutional Research and Evaluation Inc.; among the "Top 3 Public Regional Universities in the Midwest" and "Best in the Midwest" by U.S. News and World Report; named a "Green College" for the fifth year by Princeton Review; a "Military Friendly School" by Victory Media; and chosen as winner of the NCAA Division II Directors' Cup for the ninth time by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
During the past five years, accolades for Grand Valley have ranged from the sublime to the humorous. Just a few more to note here. The "Best College Buy" ranking by Institutional Research and Evaluation, Inc. in Georgia, previously mentioned, has been earned for close on to two decades. Grand Valley has made the list far more times than any other Michigan institution; authors of the report cite GVSU’s high academic performance coupled with low cost.
U.S. News & World Report also has repeatedly ranked GVSU in the "Top Public Regional Universities in the Midwest," and regularly honors the university as an “Up and Comer” institution for making promising and innovative changes in areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus or facilities.
In 2011, Minority Access, Inc. named Grand Valley a Role Model Institution for commitment to diversity. The non-profit organization highlighted GVSU's diversity in its Best Practices Guide, which is used by institutions that seek models to improve diversity. In 2012 GVSU joined only 39 other colleges around the U.S. in receiving a five-star rating – the highest rating possible – on the LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index, based on data from the Campus Pride Index.
Grand Valley's reputation as a "green" university and its commitment to environmentally sustainable practices is covered in Section V. of this update. In 2014, for the fifth year in a row, GVSU was named one of the most environmentally friendly universities in the country, according to “Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges,” competing with more than 830 schools to be included. Since 2012, GVSU has won a spot on the annual list of "Coolest Schools" by The Sierra Club, the largest national grassroots environmental organization in the U.S. GVSU was the highest-ranking Michigan institution in 2014, cited as one of the country's greenest universities.
Grand Valley is ranked in the top 10 of institutions its size for the number of students who participate in study abroad programs, ranked fifth in the nation in 2014 by the Institute of International Education.
In his Fall 2014 address to faculty and staff, President Thomas Haas told the convocation that, "We’ve been judged 'Best in Class' for the second year by Michigan’s governor and the Legislature. Governor Rick Snyder is a numbers guy, and he developed a plan in which new funding follows performance. Retention and graduation rates, low administrative costs and the number of Pell-eligible students are factors in state appropriations," he continued. "We have been rewarded for your hard work, and I thank you. Because of your performance, we received the first meaningful uptick in state aid in 13 years!"
And in January 2014, GVSU topped a list of colleges with the worst weather. Compiled by "Campus Explorer," a college search service, the list did have a tongue-in-cheek quality, but it is worth noting that in that month, for the first time in its history, Grand Valley cancelled classes for two consecutive days due to weather.
One very predictable effect of this kind of national publicity is that students are enrolling in record numbers at Grand Valley. Nearly every year in this five-year period, new records were established in enrollment of first-year students, as well as minority students, international students and out-of-state students.
"We are one of the 100 largest universities in the nation," explained President Haas in the 2015 interview for this update, "also without a doubt America's smallest large university. That's part of the GV magic." The "Grand Valley Magic" is a favorite phrase for the university's chief executive. He attributes it to one thing. "All the lists of best this and best that," he mused. "External validation is fine, but we are driven by the notion of student success."
As part of working toward that goal, he points to a perspective on enrollment that came out of the new strategic planning process. "To move away from institutional needs and toward student needs," he explained, a new position was announced in spring of 2015 addressing the necessity of managing enrollment for the future health of the institution. Longtime administrator Lynn McNamara Blue was promoted to the newly created position of vice president for Enrollment Development. A 47-year veteran of Grand Valley, Blue (widely known as "Chick" Blue) was most recently vice provost and dean for Academic Services.
Grand Valley's astonishing growth in enrollment has an impact well beyond its several campuses. On April 25, 2015, at commencement ceremonies in Van Andel Arena, Dale Boedeker was named the 100,000th student to graduate from GVSU. The importance of this milestone to West Michigan is reflected in the fact that nearly half of those graduates are living or working in the tri-county area, and nearly 90% staying in Michigan. In a report covering Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties, presented at the April 2015 Board of Trustees meeting, the economic impact of Grand Valley State University was estimated at $730 million annually.
To help insure that Grand Valley continues to provide the region with highly trained, comprehensively educated graduates, in 2010 the Grand Finish program was implemented. Designed to encourage full-time study and timely graduation, the program awards $1,000 grants for qualifying students as they enter their senior year. Focus on the Finish grants are available to first-time and transfer college students who complete 90 credit hours within a specific time period after enrollment.
In 2015, GVSU's strategic plan for the period of 2016-2021 was completed, following two years of a very intentional and participatory process. The efforts will also set the context and direction for re-accreditation of the university in 2018. Two areas that emerged in setting a course for the future are Design Thinking and Global Impact.
In 2014, the Design Thinking Initiative was announced, exploring a human-centered approach to solving problems and meeting needs using an organized method of defining, observing and considering those impacted. John Berry, executive director and founder of Design West Michigan, a design advocacy organization with more than 1100 members, and former vice president for corporate communications at Herman Miller, Inc., was named to lead the initiative. Provost Gayle R. Davis, in making the announcement, said that Berry will lead the exploration of how to connect existing programs, classes and co-curricular activities with appropriate new ones, and collaborate with other creative and innovative organizations in the region. "Liberal arts and professional training is not an either/or proposition," explained President Haas in the 2015 interview. "Design thinking is liberal arts thinking. It's our core business."
As previously noted, Grand Valley is ranked in the top 10 of institutions its size for the number of students who participate in study abroad programs, ranked fifth in the nation in 2014 by the Institute of International Education. (The roots of Grand Valley's study abroad programs are covered in the Sidebar section of this history titled "Student Life".) In 2015, GVSU was ranked second in the nation for the number of faculty members who have become Fulbright Scholars, and 15th for the number of student recipients of Fulbright Fellowships. It was the first time that Grand Valley was ranked in the U.S. Fulbright student list, according to Mark Schaub, chief international officer for GVSU. "Being ranked among the top universities for Fulbright opportunities shows the university's commitment to global learning," he said.
Grand Valley leaders began exploring how best to make global learning a campus priority in 2012. A task force led by Mark Schaub recommended a strategic process to infuse global learning across the undergraduate curriculum. "This will make the education that students get at Grand Valley more impactful and more distinctive," said Schaub in an interview for Grand Valley Magazine's Spring 2015 issue. "This is years in the making, but it will greatly set undergraduate education at Grand Valley apart from other institutions." An extensive story about the new global learning initiative can be read in the magazine.
In his 2011 welcome address to faculty and staff, President Haas outlined his ideas for the future of Grand Valley. Citing the festivities surrounding the celebration of the university's 50th anniversary, he declared that, "Now it is time for the next chapter. It is my intention to lead this university to and through "Grand Valley 2.0." Like any good technological upgrade," he explained, "we'll leverage our past and our current strengths, and take them to the next level. As we start our next half-century, I am moved by the same optimism that was present at the start of this university."
Grand Valley 2.0 was a concept introduced by President Haas in his Faculty/Staff address at the 2011 Convocation. This update illustrates the University's progress in the last five years toward the goals of that plan. Read the entire GVSU 2.0 document here.