People walk outside with plastic bins and other belongings.

GVSU buzzing with energy this week as Lakers return to campus

Largest, most diverse incoming class moves into living centers

Welcoming Lakers home is one of the best times at GVSU. Relive some of the moments from the busy move-in week full of joy, pride, anticipation and touching goodbyes.

One person holds a plastic bin while another hoists up two bins full of belongings.
Natalia Pluff, left, helps Mack Bowman, right, move belongings into Winter Hall. Pluff is a second-year student and Bowman is a junior.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
A person reaches into a plastic bin. Three other people are seated on the floor.
Nevaeh Hemmes-Palms sets up her room while surrounded by family members during Laker Connections move-in.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Mantella greets students during move-in on Allendale Campus

President Philomena V. Mantella welcomed the largest and most diverse incoming class in Grand Valley’s history, greeting and visiting with students and their families as they moved into campus housing on Wednesday. 

A steady procession of cars and SUVs pulled up to Hills Living Center as Mantella conversed with students, answered questions and filmed a segment of her popular video series, “Philly on the Street.”

Mantella said Grand Valley’s commitment to students was a major contributor in the response it received from students and the incoming class. 

A person holding glasses in one hand and with their left hand in their pocket smiles while walking outside.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
A person smiles while talking with people outside.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
Left: President Philomena V. Mantella walks along lined-up cars to greet those arriving for move-in. At right, Mantella talks with people who are unloading belongings.

“It's not just the president, it is a whole community of faculty and staff being relevant and being relational with students,” Mantella said. “I really want to applaud the faculty and staff, and I think it speaks volumes because this isn't happening across public higher education.

“So for us to be drawing more students from Michigan, more from out of state and more from international countries, and for those students to stay here at a higher rate is amazing.”

First-year student Owen Hoyt traveled across four time zones to move into Hoober Living Center on Tuesday and be a part of this year’s incoming class. Hoyt, a native of Wasilla, Alaska, said he was enamored with Grand Valley during his campus visit.

With family in the Midland area, he visited universities across Michigan and the East Coast. But, none grabbed his attention like Grand Valley. 

Lakers and their loved ones reflect on this big next step

“Grand Valley was the most friendly and had the best atmosphere,” said Hoyt, who will major in accounting. “I love the business school. We took a self-guided tour, and it’s a really well-organized campus.” 

Like Hoyt, first-year student Hannah Kruc said she knew Grand Valley was the place for her after taking a campus visit this summer. Kruc was one of hundreds of students moving into Niemeyer Living Center on Tuesday.

“It was just so beautiful, and everyone was so friendly,” Kruc said. “I really felt like I could be here, and I could see myself here.”

Standing among her belongings in front of Niemeyer, Kruc admitted there were some nerves in finally meeting her roommates, but she’s ready to experience all that Grand Valley has to offer.

“I’m ready for the college experience, being surrounded by people my age and being able to walk everywhere,” Kruc said. “Honestly, even the classes I'm excited for because I like the challenge.”

Grand Valley’s 2023-2024 academic year opens with Convocation at 7 p.m. on August 24 at the GVSU Fieldhouse Arena. The first day of classes is August 28.

By Brian Vernellis

Two people smile while hugging.
Linda Williams, left, hugs her son Joseph Williams, of Southfield, as she says goodbye after helping Joseph move into housing on the Allendale Campus.
Image credit - Image credit: Kendra Stanley-Mills
Two people smile while posing for a photo. Each of them has an item in their hands.
Audree Mui & Ming Scott pose for a photo outside Robinson Hall during the Laker Connections orientation.
Image credit - Image credit: Amanda Pitts
A person smiles while tightly hugging a dog.
Alexandra Kozelek hugs Milo, her Emotional Support Animal, during move-in.
Image credit - Image credit: Amanda Pitts

Returning Lakers may know the drill as they move into downtown space, but anticipation is fresh as ever

Move-in started August 21 on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, where the customary Laker welcome of informational tables and staff members ready to help haul items mingled with the efficiency of returning students and their supporters who know the routine.

While they know what move-in entails, the Lakers said the excitement, anticipation and even a few butterflies that a new year brings remain the same.

Rhyan Veereecken, a third-year psychology major, started the day helping get younger siblings ready for their first day of K-12 school. Then Veereecken, mom Andrea Schmuker and 3-year-old sibling Dylan headed from Sparta to Secchia Hall where the adults unloaded a car packed using the insight honed from previous move-ins. (Dylan – a Laker in training for about 15 years from now? – excitedly ran about the place).

This is the first year downtown for Veereecken who, as the oldest of six, relishes having her own space but also plans to continue to invite her siblings to hang out. "Living downtown is just a different experience. My roommate and I like to be by the city more. I think it's going to be exciting."

An adult, standing next to a bed, looks out the window with a child who is sitting on the bed.
Rhyan Vereecken, right, looks out the window with her youngest brother, Dylan Schmuker, center, as he watches the “tiny cars” go by outside the fourth-floor window of Secchia Hall during move-in on GVSU’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Schmuker said the parting the first year was tough but it has gotten easier because she sees the positive impact GVSU has had on her daughter.

"I know how much she enjoys Grand Valley and how much she enjoys living on her own and you just see her flourish and learn to do things on her own," said Schmuker, adding, "She still calls me for silly things but that's good. Otherwise I'd feel lonely."

As Nakia and Jason Brooks Sr. waited to move bins filled with belongings from a U-Haul trailer for their son, Jason Brooks Jr., they said it's still hard to say goodbye after he spent the summer with them at their Benton Harbor home.

Brooks Sr. said while he has in the past had his doubts about fitting belongings in the living center, he decided for packing, it was best to defer to his son.

"I let him manage it. I said, 'Look, I'm not sure how dorm life is so I'm going to let you pretty much dictate how things are going to go,'" Brooks Sr. said.

Brooks Jr. a third-year biology major who is interested in studying invasive species, was excited about the space in Winter Hall and to carry on with this time at GVSU. "It's been a life-changing experience making friends and memories," he said.

A person pushes a bin full of belongings along a sidewalk. The branches of a tree are in the foreground.
Ethan Sheets, a senior marketing student, pushes a cart of belongings into the first floor of Secchia Hall on GVSU’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

For fourth-year marketing major Ethan Sheets, move-in on Monday was a solo endeavor. His parents have helped him before, but when they couldn't make it this year, he set out from his hometown of Cassopolis to get settled himself in what he noted was a calm move-in environment. His parents will come later in the week to help more.

Sheets said his Secchia Hall space is conveniently located near the Seidman College of Business, where he spends much of his time. He said he values his GVSU experience, which includes belonging to the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity and taking on an expanded role this year.

Even though he is a veteran of GVSU move-ins, Sheets said with a laugh that he hasn't exactly streamlined his packing.

"I feel like I still bring just as many unnecessary things as I did my first year. I feel like I don't use half of the things I bring but they're just nice to have," Sheets said. "I bring way too many clothes, I only wear half. And bedding. And then plates and dishware, I don't use half of them. I keep using the repeated things."

By Peg West

Three people smile while one person takes a selfie with a phone.
Phillip Todd, assistant director in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, left, and President Philomena V. Mantella, center, take a selfie with Terrance Wallace, who just helped his student move into Grand Valley on August 20.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Laker Connections event presents new community to first-year students

First-year student Yami Osorio was admittedly overwhelmed during the high-energy Laker Connections kick-off event August 20 but said she enjoyed every minute.

The music boomed and spontaneous line dancing broke out during the Fieldhouse Arena event, the first program over three days of orientation that brought together all four student affinity groups.

"This is honestly a bit overwhelming, but it's good," said Osorio, who graduated from Fennville High School.

Near the line dancing, alumni and leaders of student organizations held a resource fair to answer questions and recruit members to their clubs and associations. Osorio said she was intrigued by La Tertulia, a Spanish club that delves deeper into Latino and Hispanic cultures.

"It's all so interesting. I wanted more diversity than my high school offered, so this is great," Osorio said. "I want to surround myself with diversity and embrace other cultures."

People line up to dance on a gymnasium floor.
Two people talk in front of a display on a table about a sorority.
Students spontaneously starting dancing at the event. Lakers also were able to explore clubs and associations at a resource fair. Photos by Amanda Pitts

It was exactly what organizers wanted to hear. Alisha Davis, assistant vice president for the social justice centers and director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said more than 500 students registered for one of the orientation programs: Asian Students, Black Excellence, Laker Familia and Maajtaadaa! Native Students. 

"We want to emphasize community during orientation," Davis said. "In addition to learning about resources, students are also making connections with each other."

Julia Jewelia-Clay, a biology major who graduated from Lansing Everett High School, said being at Laker Connections felt comfortable, a bit like home. 

"This afternoon has been like family," said Jewelia-Clay. "I don't really even know anyone yet and people will just stop to chat, and they're so nice." 

Alec Chan, who graduated from West Ottawa High School, had picked up information about the Vietnamese Student Association and Asian Student Union. An information technology major, Chan plans to commute to Grand Valley from his Holland-area home. He said he came to Laker Connections and other orientation events to get to know people, adding he enjoyed "the community atmosphere" in the Fieldhouse.

Orientation events continued on subsequent days with panel presentations from peer mentors, a student resources fair, campus tours and social activities. Each of the orientation programs spins off into a student success program during the fall and winter semesters with programming to support student academic, cultural and emotional well-being.

By Michele Coffill

A large group of people pose for a photo behind the large GVSU letters. The carillon is in the background.
Those who participated in the Laker Connections event gathered for a group photo.


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