Grand Forum

Grand Forum is a member-based educational program for adults 55 years and older who are eager to both learn and engage with peers. Grand Forum provides an opportunity for members to meet in an academic setting for the purpose of intellectual stimulation and social exchange. 

Members come from a variety of backgrounds and areas, and include GVSU alumni, staff, faculty, retirees and community members from all educational backgrounds. The diversity of the group leads to thought-provoking and challenging questions and discussion about timely topics.

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Spring 2024 Seminar Schedule

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - Technology and AI with Milos Topic

Join us for a conversation about technology and AI with Grand Valley State University Vice President and Chief Digital Officer.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM - Michigan POW Camps in WWII  with Gregory Sumner

Professor Greg Sumner discusses his book MICHIGAN WWII POW CAMPS, which tells the story, largely forgotten today, of the 6,000 German and Italian prisoners who dug up sugar beets in the Thumb, cut trees in the U.P. and harvested fruit in the orchards of the western part of the Wolverine State.  The young men worked hard, mostly behaved, and after the war many went on to become U.S. citizens. 

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - The U.S. Supreme Court: The Changing Legacy of the "Least Dangerous Branch" with Devin Schindler

In this highly interactive presentation, Distinguished Emeritus Professor and Dean Devin Schindler will explore how a series of recent and upcoming cases has forever altered the fabric of our constitutional republic.  The “originalist” experiment being pursued by members of the Court has resulted in a number of groundbreaking decisions covering the gamut of guns, healthcare, abortion and federalism.  As a result, the Court’s approval rating has reached an all-time low.  How will this new Court affect what it means to be an American going forward?

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM -  Real Cop: A Memoir of a Career Street Officer with David Leonard

Leonard’s presentation focuses on policing in the 1990s during the inception of the crack cocaine epidemic and the ensuing dramatic spike in violent crime it produced.  David candidly points out what law enforcement did correctly during that decade and where it sometimes missed the mark, contributing to the perceptions of today.  Leonard’s story is unique in that he spent his entire career on the street as patrol officer.  He concludes his presentation discussing his personal story coping with the heavy mental toll today’s first responders endure on the front lines of policing in today’s divided culture.

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - On Sacred Ground – A Pre-European an Early Grand Rapids History with Dan VanMuers

People have lived in the lower Grand River valley for approximately 11,000 years.  The development of burial mounds complexes began about 500 BC.  Where are the burial mounds in the lower Grand River valley/Grand Rapids area? How many people are buried in an Indian Mound? Which Grand Rapids streets follow ancient Indian trails? Why do some of downtown Grand Rapids' streets not follow a NorthSouth, East/West orientation? On which Grand River island was Kent County's first jail?

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM - Grand Action 2.0 with Kara Woods

An amphitheater and a soccer stadium? Join us to hear more details about the highly publicized projects planned for Downtown Grand Rapids.

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - Euphoria – GVSU Student a cappella group

Join us as we highlight GVSU’s student a cappella group, Euphoria. Learn more about the group, hear student stories, and watch a performance by this award-winning student group.

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM - Beckering Family Carillon Tower Presentation/Performance with Julianne Vanden Wyngaard

Since 2000, the Beckering Family Carillon Tower has been an iconic landmark for Grand Valley State University’s Robert C. Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids. Join us as Julianne shares some of the history of the carillon tower and performs a selection of music.

Additional Opportunities


Spring Dance Concert

April 20, 2024 7:00 PM

Spring Dance Concert

April 21, 2024 2:00 PM

Student Scholars Day

April 9, 2025 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

View More Events

Speaker and Program Archive

Past Grand Forum programs are recorded and made available to all Grand Forum Members. Please reach out to Grand Forum () to receive the access link.

The State of Policing in Grand Rapids with Chief Eric Winstrom

West Michigan’s Economy after COVID and Beyond with Dr. Paul Isely

Comrade King  withJeffrey Kelly Lowenstein and Khulu Radebe

Fatal Crossing: The Mysterious Disappearance of Northwest Flight 2501 in Lake Michigan with Valerie van Heest

The Mayor, the Maestro, and the Mansion with Carol Dodge         

Grand Valley State University Update with President Philomena V. Mantella

The Reclaiming of Muskegon Lake with Dr. Alan Steinman

Wisdom of Animals: A Nature-led Journey into the Heart of Transformational Leadership with Dr. Patrick Bishop

Chinese Thought with Peimin Ni

The Holocaust and the Impact on Grand Rapids with Robert Franciosi

Protecting Trees from Invasive Species with Lawrence Burns and Alexandra Locher

Critical Race Theory Part 1 with Fred Johnson 

The NCAA and GVSU Athletics: Today and Into the Future  with Keri Becker

Critical Race Theory Part 2 with Fred Johnson

State of Grand Rapids with Mayor Bliss

Islamophobia with Coeli Fitzpatrick

Locally Grown Food and the Grand Valley Farm with Michael Hinkle, GVSU Farm Manager and Educator

Dutch Art History with Henry Luttikhuizen

Frances Perkins and the Women Behind the New Deal with GVSU Professor Dr. Judy Whipps

The Grand Haven Bank Robbery with Judge David Buter

The State of the University with GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella joined by Fatma Mili, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Senior Leadership Team Panel including:

Laura Aikens, Vice President for University Development
Stacie Behler, Vice President and Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer
Jesse Bernal, Chief of Staff to the President & Vice President for Inclusion and Equity
Jenny Hall- Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs
Milos Topic, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Digital Officer

Cryptocurrency with Aaron Sundman, Digital Specialist, Amway

Mathias Alten Artwork Tour in the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery with Henry Matthews, Former Director of Galleries and Collections, GVSU


Members must be 55 years or older
Annual cost per person
Access to 16 special lectures per year
Join a fantastic social network

Programming Sample

Enjoy these two sample Grand Forum programs from our last session in May 2023! These videos showcase what Grand Forum strives for: an opportunity to learn from an expert in a specific area and then the ability for Grand Forum members to ask questions and converse with others.

Protecting Trees from Invasive Species

Grand Forum May 11, 2023 - Protecting Trees from Invasive Species

State of Grand Rapids with Mayor Rosalynn Bliss

Grand Forum May 18, 2023 - State of Grand Rapids with Mayor Rosalynn Bliss

Groups of alumni at the fall session of the Grand Forum.
a man clapping
A woman talking to another
a man asks a question
a woman signs a book
a man is smiling
a man listening to presentation

“There are few programs geared for this growing segment of the population. Today's retired adults are an active population who enjoy intellectual challenges, and many prefer to engage in such activities with their peers. The Grand Forum provides opportunity for both under the University's direction.”

Calvin Stockman, Former Dean of Continuing Education

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Grand Forum for?

The Grand Forum is an educational outreach program for adults 55 and older who are eager to learn, love to meet new people, and enjoy discussing impactful topics with their peers.

How much does it cost?

Membership for the Grand Forum is $150 per person per year. For this moderately priced membership fee, Grand Forum provides access to a series of special lectures. These intellectually stimulating programs are taught by community leaders, faculty from area colleges and universities as well as experts from a variety of diverse disciplines. Programming will take place in-person at GVSU’s downtown campus and will also be available virtually through a Zoom webinar.  

What can I expect?

In addition to spending time with friends, you'll have plenty of opportunities to make new ones. As a member, you are invited to attend sixteen (16) in-person special programs throughout the year. Members come from a variety of backgrounds and areas, such as alumni, GVSU retirees and community members. The diversity of the group leads to thought-provoking and challenging questions and comments after the presentation.

What is expected of me?

Through presentations and discussions, the Grand Forum provides a broad spectrum of stimulating programs in a setting that encourages lively discussion. An interest in learning is an essential part of your membership. You will also need to RSVP for each event you wish to attend.

Do I have to live in the Grand Rapids area?

Grand Forum programs are made available to members in a hybrid format. Members can choose to attend presentations in person or can tune in online. 

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Become a member of the Grand Forum

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Page last modified December 14, 2023