Celina Lee sits at a table and smiles mid-conversation

Growing Michigan Together invites students to share strategies for Michigans future

Improved transportation, affordable tuition and more opportunities to access Michigan's natural beauty were among the priorities of students gathered September 25 to weigh in on a conversation about Michigan's future.

The Laker Student Forum was organized by the Growing Michigan Together Council, an initiative established this year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to develop a long-term vision for Michigan to address challenges and determine the best ways to retain and grow the population.

The session in the Kirkhof Center was led by Hilary Doe, the state's chief growth officer, who said gathering input from GVSU students was a crucial part of the statewide effort.

“My job is to think about how we ensure that you never have to leave Michigan because you feel like you don’t have opportunities here,” she said. “What are the big structural policy reforms we can take? What changes can we make that will lay the foundation for strong growth, for shared prosperity, for Michigan to be a top-10 state for growth?”

Hilary Doe holds her hands up in emphasis while speaking behind a blue podium.
Hilary Doe, Michigan's state's chief growth officer, welcomes participants to the Laker Student Forum.

When registering for the forum, students were sent a survey asking what they love about Michigan and where they would like to see improvements. From those results, members of the Council chose to focus on three topics: higher education, transportation and outdoor recreation.

Organized into small groups, students brainstormed ideas around one of the topics, then presented their insights to their peers. Some similar ideas emerged across the room, many of which Doe said were in line with feedback already given from other groups.

One proposed idea was to build a high-speed train system connecting major Michigan cities to one another, along with routes giving residents easier access to the Great Lakes and other elements of Michigan’s natural beauty. Many also touched on the need for accessibility in a variety of ways: making in-state tuition more affordable at public universities, maintaining state parks to allow access to all levels of mobility, and increasing the types of public transportation available as alternatives to cars.

Students said that they are excited to see their government taking an interest in them and their ideas.

A young woman sits at a table and speaks into a microphone.
A young man stands and speaks into a microphone.

“I think a lot of the time people our age don’t get to share their thoughts about what they want in their state,” said Sidney Hogan, a first-year student. “I’m only 18, so to be given this opportunity right now is super cool.” 

Quinten Proctor, Student Senate president, echoed Hogan's sentiments on the importance of talking to students to ensure a better future for the state.

"I wanted my perspective heard and to make sure that we’re part of this whole process where we’re determining the policies that will help us stay in Michigan,” Proctor said.

State Rep. John Fitzgerald, D-Wyoming, who also attended the event, said the Council knows taking a student-oriented approach is important when collecting insights on Michigan's future.

“We want to make it so clear that Michigan is the place to be as a young person,” Fitzgerald said. 

A survey is available for all Michigan residents, which will collect feedback to grow and develop the state. Take the survey here and have your own voice heard.


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