Fort Valley State University students tour the GVSU Innovation Design Center on Monday, May 10.

FVSU students visit GVSU campuses, West Michigan businesses

One month after Grand Valley State University and Fort Valley State University announced an agreement to help diversify West Michigan's engineering and computing talent pool, 12 students from the Georgia university are in the area to learn more.

Leaders from the two universities signed an agreement April 8 that creates a pathway for FVSU students to earn a bachelor’s degree from FVSU combined with a master's degree in engineering or computer science at GVSU in as little as five years. FVSU is an Historically Black College/University (HBCU). 

Paul Plotkowski, dean of GVSU's Padnos College of Engineering and Computing (PCEC), said the students have a packed two-day schedule in Grand Rapids that includes meeting faculty members, current graduate students and PCEC partners, and touring engineering and computing labs and facilities, along with visiting popular spots in Grand Rapids.

Paul Plotkowski leads a tour of students.
Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, leads a tour of FVSU students on the Grand Rapids Campus.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
John Farris, left, talks with FVSU students about the engineering programs. All people are seated and masks.
At left, John Farris, professor of engineering, talks with FVSU students during a May 10 tour of the Grand Rapids Campus engineering facilities.
Kendra Stanley-Mills

Plotkowski said scheduling time with the college's corporate partners was key. Omar Hall, vice president of sales at NN Inc., for example, started college at an HBCU before transferring to the University of Michigan for its engineering program. Hall shared his career path with FVSU students and discussed how finding support and using resources aids success.

"The interest from the community in this program is very important as it relates to talent recruitment and diversifying the talent pool in West Michigan," Plotkowski said. "Our partners can explain to the students how they will be supported by the university and area businesses if they participate in the program."

B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, said the 12 FVSU students were a mix of juniors and seniors; all, Truss said, were "highly qualified and prepared for the academic rigor they will face at GVSU." 

B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, gives a presentation during a May 10 tour for FVSU students.
B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, gives a presentation during a May 10 tour for FVSU students.
Image Credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills

"Students from Fort Valley are interested in this program and the options Grand Valley can provide for them," Truss said. "The fact that there are students not yet ready to graduate who are here in Grand Rapids shows this will be a true pipeline program."

Truss added that the agreement with FVSU serves as a blueprint for Grand Valley's future recruitment efforts with HBCUs. "Grand Valley will not compete with these amazing institutions but will collaborate in order to further promote their mission of increasing the educational attainment of African American students," he said.

Beginning as soon as the Fall 2021 semester, FVSU students can earn GVSU master's degrees in various engineering disciplines, computer science, cybersecurity, or data science and analytics. FVSU students will have access to scholarship and financial support, student support and retention services, and Michigan in-state tuition rates.