President Emeritus Thomas Haas leads a Zoom class from his home office.

Back in the classroom, Haas enjoys teaching remotely

Two of Grand Valley's colleges can lay claim to having a former university president among the faculty members who are teaching classes in the fall semester.

President Emeritus Thomas J. Haas teaches courses for the College of Education and Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies. And like other faculty members, Haas spent his summer preparing content as well as learning new methods of teaching remotely.

It was a productive and busy summer, he said.

"Knowing I needed to engage in new modalities and learn Blackboard and Banner, I reached out to faculty colleagues, took a Magna online course, aligned my course outlines with others who have taught, added my own perspectives, and participated in new faculty orientation," Haas said. 

Haas served as Grand Valley's president from 2006-2019 and committed to teaching classes after he retired. 

A blurred book in foreground, Haas sits in his home office teaching a class via Zoom.
'The Leadership Challenge' is used in the Leadership and Social Change class.
Amanda Pitts
Haas reads from notes while teaching an undergraduate class from his home office.
Haas reads from notes while teaching an undergraduate class from his home office.
Amanda Pitts

Provost Maria Cimitile recommended Haas teach courses in which students would benefit from his extensive and varied experiences, he said. That recommendation landed him a graduate course, "Organization Behavior, Ethics and Decision-making," in the College of Education, and an undergraduate course, "Leadership and Social Change," in Brooks College's Integrative, Religious and Intercultural Studies department.

Haas said he finds the graduate education course rewarding because the students have diverse professional goals. As former chair of the 21st Century Education Commission, he shares how commissioners shaped the state's educational framework and, of course, his knowledge of the higher education landscape. 

The IRIS course meets synchronously Thursday evenings. From his home in Rockford, Haas engages students via Zoom in active discussions and said they are achieving the learning outcomes of critical thinking and self-assessments while working in groups.

Melanie Shell-Weiss, chair and associate professor of IRIS, called Haas a wonderful colleague and said she appreciated how he connected with other faculty teaching the same course. "They collaborated on ideas, shared resources and book lists," Shell-Weiss said. "It's been a wonderful experience to have Tom as a colleague."

As GVSU president, Haas often spoke about servant leadership, and he returns to the topic in class.

"Students are expanding their learning into social change movements of their choosing and creating plans for actions," he said. " I view my role in this class as a mentor."

Haas holds up a hand while teaching a class from his home office.
Haas teaches courses for the College of Education and Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts