SSN pilot year shows successes, organizers say

students forming GVSU on football field
First-year students are pictured at Lubbers Stadium following Transitions orientation. The Student Success Network pairs faculty partners with 1,300 students to help ease their transition to college.
Image Credit: University Communications

Organizers of the Student Success Network are pleased with the pilot year of the program aimed at connecting first-year students with faculty partners to ease the transition to living and learning at Grand Valley.

More than 1,300 first-year students were grouped and assigned a faculty member during Transitions in August. Faculty members who volunteered to be a partner then connected with their group via email, offering resources and strategies for classroom success.

Brian Hatzel, director of faculty initiatives for student success and professor of movement science, said using numbers to assess the program's success will occur after first- to second-year retention rates are in the books. 

"Anecdotally, we do know that when students have needed support in a number of ways, they are reaching out to their partner for guidance," Hatzel said. "This has been very evident through testimonials and debriefing meetings with the full group."

SSN also includes support from 40 students who help craft messages to first-year students and work with faculty partners.

Hatzel is recruiting faculty members who would like to volunteer as a SSN partner for the 2019-2020. Information about the program is online at; questions can be directed to Hatzel at [email protected].

The following faculty members served as SSN partners:

Donovan Anderson

Peter Anderson

Shawn Bultsma

Lindsay Corneal

Alisha Davis

Merritt Delano-Taylor

Christopher Dondzilla

Matthew Feeback

Gretchen Galbraith

Nancy Giardina

Heather Gulgin

Brian Hatzel

Jodee Hunt

Jon Jeffryes

Tara Kneeshaw

Amy Masko

Hazel McClure

Douglas Montagna

Melissa Morison

Felix Ngassa

Emily Nichols

Len O'Kelly

Elizabeth Psyck

Wendy Reffeor

Samhita Rhodes

Ashley Rosener

Sally Ross 

Gayle Schaub 

Mark Schaub 

Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin 

Ross Sherman 

Scott Stabler 

Pamela Wells