Athletics Winter 2017
Athletic director embraces role as story teller
by Michele Coffill
photo by Jess Weal
With six months under her belt as athletic director, Keri Becker has become proficient at telling the story of Laker student athletes.
Becker was named athletic director in April and began working in that role in July, replacing Tim Selgo, who retired after 20 years. She had served as Grand Valley's associate athletic director for five years.
Her new role allows Becker to look at Laker athletics with a different lens. In the midst of football season, she discussed her experiences as the lead story teller for Grand Valley athletics.
What would you like people to know about Laker student athletes?
I have a lot of respect for the level of competition our student athletes have achieved. They are playing at a high level and provide exciting competition. The only difference is that we sometimes don't get the exposure of NCAA Division I universities.
Grand Valley is invested in athletics, we have attracted talented student athletes who have delivered a return on the investment athletically and academically.
64 percent of our student athletes have a GPA higher than 3.0, 41 percent are from out-of-state. They traveled 75,000 miles by bus last year, and completed more than 7,200 hours of community service, raising $7,000 for West Michigan Make-A-Wish. They are very much a part of the fabric of this university and are a visible demonstration of the excellence Grand Valley produces.
You have talked about athletics as enhancing the college experience for the entire student body.
In this role, I can be intentional about sharing the message about how athletics impacts the mission of the university by having an impact on recruiting, retention and enhancing the educational experience beyond the classroom.
In addition to 577 student athletes, there are student employees, volunteers, band members, cheerleaders and dance teams that bring student impact to 1,280 people, not to mention the thousands of students that attend our events.
Grand Valley athletics is where I believe the Grand Valley spirit comes to life, where we can make the university feel like home. Our teams host more than 19,000 potential future Lakers through camps, clinics and other activities throughout the year.
Athletics is very visible to the public, both locally and across the country, and we embrace our role in enhancing the image and reputation of the university.
Laker student athletes have been very involved in the university's sexual assault awareness campaign, "It's On Us," and other educational efforts.
Our student athletes get the messaging about sexual assault awareness several times before graduating through required training. Not only do we ensure they understand the processes and know the resources available on our campus, but we also have conversations about establishing consent and bystander intervention.
We're asking our student athletes to be leaders, and being active bystanders comes down to having the courage to stand up and prevent a possibly bad situation or even take steps to change a culture. Young men and women also need to be comfortable with conversations about consent.
We want our student athletes to take advantage of the opportunities to be leaders and be part of the solution.
You played college softball at Saginaw Valley and coached softball at Ferris State.
Well, I wanted to be a basketball player but God made me 5 feet 4 inches tall so my path took me down the road of softball. I went from a student athlete to a coach to an administrator, so college athletics has been a part of my entire college and professional career. In many ways, I never left college, but found it is the best means to have impact on young people, and do all I can to ensure they have the best possible experience.
Your job seems similar to a high school principal who attends home games for every sport.
I'm taking time to have a presence at as many home games as I can, because it's important to show support and also to have a pulse of how the programs are doing.
If I'm going to hire and help develop coaches, I need to be there to see what's going on at the games and practices, to see how they teach. Plus, that is the absolute best part of my job, watching talented student athletes in a highly competitive environment; why would I not want to do that?
About Keri Becker
• Bachelor's degree in criminal justice, Saginaw Valley State University; master of business administration, Ferris State University
• 14 years as Ferris State softball coach; three-time GLIAC Coach of Year
• Member, Grand Valley's Women's Commission
• Former staff sergeant, Army Reserves, 1992-2010, deployed during Iraq War 2003-2004.
What would you like a first-time fan to experience at a Laker game?
I would hope they realize that this is the place where the Grand Valley spirit comes alive. I want them to be amazed by the support from the university, and I want them to come back again, maybe to another event. I want them to be impressed by the quality of student athletes and the high level of play.