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Convocation messages stress importance of making connections

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Posted on August 25, 2017

Grand Valley's Convocation speakers who welcomed first-year students to their new academic home gave unified messages of the importance of making connections, accepting challenges and stepping out of comfort zones.

Maria Cimitile addressed the audience gathered in the Fieldhouse on August 25 in her first formal role as provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs. She encouraged students to develop relationships with their professors, calling faculty members the "guides" who open the doors of learning.

"A liberal education is not something given to you, it's earned," Cimitile said. "The faculty will guide you to all that you know and demand that you push yourself."  

President Thomas J. Haas reminded the audience of the university's values of integrity, scholarship and service. He encouraged students to develop a passion for life-long learning, including learning from people who represent different cultures or present different perspectives. 

"Find someone who is different from you and they will enrich your life," Haas said. "We must commit to respectfully listening to others’ opinions and then respectfully voicing our own."

Two sisters, Briauna Taylor and Brittany Taylor, gave advice as successful alumni who have backgrounds in nursing, business, entrepreneurship and athletics. Briauna, who earned degrees in business and nursing, encouraged students to find their niches and step out of comfort zones. Doing so, she said, will broaden their perspectives and aid them after graduation.

Jonathan Bowman and Felix Ngassa also spoke, taking on their new roles as presidents of Student Senate and University Academic Senate, respectively. 

Ngassa, professor of chemistry, said the first-year students spent a week developing new relationships and making connections. He called that the first step to becoming a member of the Laker family and also discussed the "Laker connection," listing resources and university structures in place created to help students succeed.

Stephen Glass, active vice provost for Student Affairs and dean of students, asked students to reflect on their path to Grand Valley and remember challenges, opportunities and people who helped along the way.

"Now you are here and you have a new set of challenges," Glass said. He encouraged students to persist, ask for help and say "yes" to new opportunities.

Click here to see the video shown during Convocation.

• Haas opening address

Haas addressed faculty and staff members earlier in the day at the Cook-DeWitt Center, discussing challenges in higher education and how the university continues to deliver on the public good of education.

He said declining state fiscal support and decreasing numbers of high school graduates make the "business of education" difficult at times. "But I want to put your minds as ease. Part of Grand Valley's history is being nimble and efficient, and we are managing both," he said.

Haas spoke about the university being "adaptively stable" as represented by the June purchase of the Ferris Coffee and Nut building in Grand Rapids, which will house interdisciplinary engineering programs. He also cited growth of the health campus on Medical Mile and the state's investment to construct a new building next to the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences to meet demand for nursing and health professions programs.

"We are delivering on the investment of the state, investment by parents in terms of tuition, and we're producing graduates who will make a difference," he said. "We have a fundamental responsibility to give our best to our students, and their degree is a symbol of the public good."