Campus News Spring 2016

Trophy hall named for Selgo

The extensive trophy cases in the Fieldhouse may be now named for Tim Selgo, but the retiring athletic director said it’s only because of the great successes of student athletes, coaches and administrators he has worked with for the past 20 years.

A naming ceremony was held April 12 in the Fieldhouse to name the Showcase of Champions for Selgo, who retired at the end of the academic year. The hallway cases include 10 Learfield Sports/NACDA Directors’ Cup trophies, 17 GLIAC Presidents’ Cup trophies, in addition to hardware representing NCAA team and individual championships and league trophies, among others.

Selgo oriented the audience to the cases and acknowledged the five or six thousand student athletes, and hundreds of coaches and administrators he has worked with since joining Grand Valley in 1996. “It is because of the great work of all these people that this space has my name,” he said.

Tim Selgo at podium

Tim Selgo addresses the audience in the Fieldhouse April 12 during an event that named the Showcase of Champions in his honor.
photo by Amanda Pitts

President Thomas J. Haas said Selgo was not only responsible for hiring great coaches who produced winning teams, but for elevating Grand Valley’s reputation as among the best in NCAA Division II athletics. “He is without a doubt the best promoter of a well-rounded athletic department,” Haas said.

Haas said Selgo has focused his attention on ensuring Laker athletes perform well on the field and in the classroom. “He has helped develop the whole person and has created an environment for student success,” Haas said.

Laker golfer Gabrielle Shipley, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, also spoke and said she represented all 550 student athletes in 20 varsity sports. “Mr. Selgo has made a positive impact on my college career,” Shipley said. “He is a role model on how to be a great leader.”

Selgo noted that in addition to Haas, former university President Mark Murray and President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers were in the audience. “There’s the old phrase of ‘Surround yourself with successful people and you will find success.’ Today is an example of that. From student athletes to coaches and support staff, I surrounded myself with those successful people and it is on their backs that I stand before you today and that my name is allowed on this space,” he said.

The Laker Pep Band played the Grand Valley fight song outside the Fieldhouse to start the ceremony.

Keri Becker, current associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, was named athletic director in April. She will assume that role July 18.

Video of naming ceremony

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Merkle leaves dean of students post for faculty position

On paper, Bart Merkle’s service to Grand Valley will be represented as more than three decades at one institution.

Merkle said he prefers to think of his 32 years as dean of students differently. “I tell people that I have worked at three or four Grand Valleys as it has evolved and changed,” he said. “I’m so pleased to be a part of a place that is still becoming and shaping itself.”

Merkle joined Grand Valley in 1984 as the dean of students and will leave his role as vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students this summer to join the College of Education faculty and teach in the higher education graduate program.

He was working at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, as acting dean of students when he interviewed for the Grand Valley position. Talking with President Emeritus Arend D. Lubbers and then-Provost Glenn Niemeyer about their vision for the college helped solidify his decision to accept their job offer.

“I was intrigued by what they had to say, and their commitment to a liberal arts-based curriculum. They wanted to maintain the small college feel while developing a better campus life and providing support services for students,” he said.

In 1984, Grand Valley State College had an enrollment of 7,100 with 1,250 students living on campus. Merkle arrived at the end of a national recession and it showed at Grand Valley through a decreased enrollment and budget cuts. Despite the times, Grand Valley leaders were moving ahead.

Merkle’s early responsibilities were to expand and revamp campus housing and expand opportunities for students out of the classroom, “to make Grand Valley feel like a community,” he said.

Bart Merkle is pictured next to his wife, Anne Merkle

Bart Merkle is pictured next to his wife, Anne Merkle, at a reception marking the end of his tenure as dean of students
photo by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

And he began building and shaping a Student Services division. In 1984, there were five departments that reported to the dean of students. “I spent a lot of time bringing the staff together so we were all on the same page,” Merkle said. “Grand Valley is a very student-centered place and it was important that they all saw their work as central to the learning process.”

In 1987, four new living centers opened, and more student organizations were offered, including more club sports. He was instrumental in leading a co-curricular initiative at Grand Valley. “There has been a shift in higher education from a focus on teaching to a focus on learning,” Merkle said. “The classroom is a key place but not the only place to learn.”

Merkle led development of the College Student Affairs Leadership graduate program, working closely with colleagues in the College of Education and Student Services. Since it was established in 1995, more than 450 people have graduated from the program. In December, a scholarship fund that provides support for students and faculty members in the CSAL program was renamed in honor of Merkle.

Grand Valley now has an enrollment of more than 25,000, with 6,000 students living on campus and 8,000 on the university’s perimeter in Allendale. Creating what Merkle called a residential campus was the result of faculty, staff and students working together. “It has become a residential place with more than 450 student organizations and a broad-ranging curriculum that engages students actively in the learning process.

“Student leaders are strong at Grand Valley — this doesn’t just happen. It is achieved through sustained effort by staff to facilitate the growth and development of leaders in student government and other student organizations over the years,” he said.

Merkle celebration remarks

DTE Energy Foundation gift helps businesses, students

A gift from DTE Energy Foundation will allow Grand Valley to expand a center that helps local businesses design and test electrical devices entering the marketplace.

Representatives from DTE Energy Foundation and Grand Valley celebrated the $300,000 donation to the Electromagnetic Compatibility Center March 4, during an event at the facility, located at 609 Watson St. in Grand Rapids.

The 4,000-square-foot EMC Center, renamed the DTE Energy Foundation Electromagnetic Compatibility Lab, is the first of its kind in West Michigan. All electrical devices must be certified for EMC compliance by the Federal Communications Commission before entering the marketplace, which can be costly. The center pairs engineering students with local companies to provide affordable pre-compliance testing and design support for small- to medium-sized businesses in West Michigan.

“The DTE Energy Foundation gift helped raise the center from an emerging facility into a highly capable facility and operation, that is providing substantial support to local industry and education for both Grand Valley students and industry practitioners,” said Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.

The gift will be used to purchase testing equipment and expand and improve the space.

Mark Stiers, president and chief operating officer of DTE Gas, said DTE Energy Foundation is pleased to support the Electromagnetic Compatibility Lab because programs related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are so important to Michigan’s economic progress.

Partnering to advance STEM education

A collaboration between Grand Valley and West Michigan Aviation Academy will support high school students learning about science, technology, engineering and math as they pursue careers focused on aviation.

President Thomas J. Haas and WMAA CEO Patrick J. Cwayna signed an agreement February 17 that outlined the university’s commitment to helping develop STEM curriculum and extra- curricular activities for WMAA.

The collaboration specifically includes support from faculty in the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing who will work with teachers and department chairs at WMAA to enhance STEM courses and student learning. In addition, a Grand Valley graduate student will assist the academy’s FIRST Robotics team and the university will donate equipment to support hands-on learning.

Patrick J. Cwayna introduces President Thomas J. Haas to West Michigan Aviation Academy students

Patrick J. Cwayna introduces President Thomas J. Haas to West Michigan Aviation Academy students following an agreement between Grand Valley and the high school that will support STEM education at the school. At right is Michelle Lindale, director of partnership development for the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing.
photo by Jess Weal

Poof! Professor turns into comedic magician

Scott Grissom, professor of computer science, performs as Mandrake, an English magician

Scott Grissom, professor of computer science, performs as Mandrake, an English magician, for his programming class.
photo by Amanda Pitts

“This is probably your most memorable class ever at Grand Valley,” said Scott Grissom, before performing magic in front of his Introduction to Programming class in Mackinac Hall on a Monday morning in February.

Most days, he’s Scott Grissom, mild-mannered professor of computer science, but once in a while he transforms into Mandrake, an English magician from the Renaissance who specializes in close-up magic. His favorite tricks to perform involve using rope, foam balls and a deck of cards.

“I’ve used Mandrake as my alter ego for about 35 years,” said Grissom, a native of Texas. “He’s an interesting character and likes to make people laugh. Sometimes my performances are more about comedy than magic tricks.”

Grissom’s interest in magic began in the third grade when he received a magic kit. Interest turned into talent, and before he knew it, poof, he was performing at Renaissance fairs during high school and college.

While he doesn’t perform as often as he once did, Grissom has been known to perform for students as Mandrake on different days of the year, like Halloween. He uses his classroom as a stage and his students serve as assistants.

“When a magician is talking through their trick, it’s called a problem, so sometimes I can adjust the pattern to relate to computer science topics. There’s a rope trick that I perform that is one of my more practiced tricks, and instead of using a rope, I’ll use a phone charger cord or other techy devices,” he said.

Professor receives 330-year-old violin

Giovanni Grancino is widely considered one of the greatest and earliest violin makers from the “Golden Age of Violin Making,” roughly 1680-1750 in Italy. Violins crafted during this time have sold for millions of dollars to present-day musicians, enthusiasts and collectors.

Gregory Maytan, associate professor of violin, is currently in possession of one of these rare violins that was created more than 330 years ago. The 1683 Grancino violin was loaned to Maytan in 2015 by the Swedish Järnåker Foundation, which lends string instruments to highly talented young musicians who are either Swedish or actively performing in Sweden.

Maytan will continue using the violin through 2017. While on sabbatical in Germany over the past year, he recorded a CD using the instrument and also toured northern Sweden performing all of Bach’s works for violin.

Gregory Maytan with violin

Gregory Maytan has loan of a 330-year-old violin from a Swedish foundation.
Photo by Sven Jachens

“I was excited to tour in the north, which is where I was born and raised,” Maytan said.

Maytan plans to give his students the opportunity to perform with the rare instrument, but said they will learn more about the violin through listening, rather than playing.

“I find that a big part of being an effective teacher is to be able to demonstrate passages to students in a way that inspires and convinces them,” Maytan said.

On the campaign trail

The Allendale Campus proved an important stop for two presidential candidates.

Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont held a rally in the Fieldhouse March 4, days before he won the Michigan presidential primary. Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich held a town hall meeting February 15 in the Kirkhof Center.

John Kasich, Republican candidate for president, is pictured after a town hall meeting in the Kirkhof Center February 15.

John Kasich, Republican candidate for president, is pictured after a town hall meeting in the Kirkhof Center February 15.

Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd

Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd of 4,800 in the Fieldhouse March 4, days before winning the Michigan Democratic presidential primary.
photos by Bernadine Carey-Tucker

Kasich’s campaign stop at Grand Valley was sponsored by Grand Valley’s College Republicans student organization. He touched on the economy, jobs and partisan politics in a wide-ranging discussion before taking questions from a half dozen members of the audience.

Sanders told an audience of 4,800 that “the American people understand that coming together and supporting each other trumps divisiveness.”

Early results from climate survey revealed

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity, discusses preliminary results from the 2015 survey during a March 2 meeting in the Kirkhof Center.
photo by Jess Weal

Preliminary results from the 2015 myGVSU Climate Survey showed that 87 percent of members of the Grand Valley community reported feeling “comfortable” or “very comfortable” living, learning and working on campus.

Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity, discussed results during a March 2 meeting in the Kirkhof Center. A summary of the preliminary findings from the November climate survey is posted online at

Bernal called the participation from students, faculty and staff members overwhelming and an immense success. The overall survey participation rate was 42 percent, compared to a national average of 28 percent, and 27 percent for the 2011 Grand Valley climate survey.


While nearly 90 percent of the overall community reported feeling comfortable, 75 percent of people of color, and 59 percent of people who identified as transgender said they were comfortable or very comfortable on campus.

Health profession programs expand to Traverse City

Grand Valley will expand its Master of Public Health and Bachelor of Allied Health Sciences programs to the university’s regional center in Traverse City.

Classes for both programs will start in the fall semester.

Theresa Bacon-Baguley, associate dean for research in the College of Health Professions, said the decision to expand these two programs to Traverse City is based on the need for professionals to fill critical, health-related positions and for more educational health programs in northern Michigan.

The MPH program will focus on health promotion, a branch of public health that promotes health through education, intervention and policy work. The program will address how to identify specific needs of a community, and create ways to elevate its health status and reduce disparities.

Roy Olsson

Roy Olsson

Theresa Bacon-Baguley

Theresa Bacon-Baguley

Heather Wallace, an assistant professor who is working on the Traverse City expansion, said the program is the first of its kind to be offered to people living and working in the Traverse City area.

“Graduates will gain a toolbox of knowledge and skills, which are in high demand right now,” Wallace said. “They will learn valuable skills like how to incorporate new wellness policies at a company and how to evaluate use of resources in a way that promotes efficiency and effectiveness. I see our graduates going on to work for many types of workplaces, including governmental agencies and private companies.”

Michael Wambach, assistant professor and chair of allied health sciences, said the program was designed to complement the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program that is also offered in Traverse City.

“This will allow students interested in physician assistant studies to partake in both our undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a more seamless manner,” said Wambach.

Roy Olsson, dean of the College of Health Professions, said expansion of the programs is part of an ongoing effort to place more graduates in jobs in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The physician assistant studies program expanded to Traverse City in 2015; the first cohort began classes last fall.

For more information, visit the Traverse City Regional Center website at

Page last modified November 21, 2016