GVSU community explores ‘uncharted color’ at annual Presidents’ Ball

GVL / Emily Frye      
Grand Valley State University hosts the Presidents Ball on Friday Feb. 3, 2017.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Grand Valley State University hosts the President’s Ball on Friday Feb. 3, 2017.

Dylan Grosser

Four thousand Grand Valley State University students and alumni filled the DeVos Place Ballrooms with vibrant dresses and suits Friday, Feb. 3. Parties swayed and danced under the massive 40-inch disco ball with hair, dresses, shoes, ties, belts and nails matching one pervasive theme throughout the night: color.

“Uncharted Color” was the first of its kind for the GVSU Presidents’ Ball themes. After “007” in 2014, “The Grand Gatsby” in 2015 and “Olympus: A Night in the Clouds” in 2016, Nikhil Watsa, student senate vice president for external relations, said the planning committee for the Presidents’ Ball wanted to do something more colorful so people could get creative with their outfits.

“Essentially, we just wanted to take some time to celebrate color, celebrate the brightness of different color schemes and the different elements color brings in terms of artistic value,” Watsa said.

Various musical and dance performances were given throughout the night, followed by the presentation of awards to select faculty and staff members.

Watsa introduced the Student Award for Faculty Excellence (SAFE). The SAFE award recipient is nominated and decided by student senate. This year, the award was given to Jonathan White, professor of interdisciplinary studies in the Frederik Meijer Honors College, who Watsa said “embodies the virtue of the student body.” White spoke to students about the impact they will have on the world after they graduate.

“You are going to change the world, and the world needs you,” White said.

Malayna Hasmanis, student senate vice president for educational affairs, presented the Laker of the Year Award to Ashley Schulte, victim advocate in GVSU’s Women’s Center. Schulte talked about ways she will always be a “Laker for a lifetime” and show her GVSU pride.

Schulte, who is also a part of the “It’s on Us” campaign, took time to address her role as a victim advocate, saying she will speak up against bias and confront issues that are above her pay grade.

“In my role as victim advocate, I wish to reflect on my story, give graciously for what is mine, to seek the truth and defend it always,” Schulte said. “I will take time to advocate for those who have not yet had their voices heard.”

The Presidential Appreciation Award is given to one GVSU faculty member each year by GVSU President Thomas Haas and the student senate president, currently Ella Fritzemeier. Both said the decision this year was “easy,” awarding Gayle Davis, who is retiring as provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs.

The 2017 Presidents’ Ball was Haas’ eleventh as GVSU’s president. Haas said the awards and the ball itself are important to GVSU’s tradition and are examples of how GVSU is America’s “smallest large university.”

“(The Presidents’ Ball) is predicated on creating great relationships amongst students and is one of those points in time during the academic year that we can enjoy the connections that we have made throughout the university,” Haas said.

LeaAnn Tibbe, associate director of student life who helped organize the Presidents’ Ball, said the event exemplifies one of the four tenets of being a Laker for a lifetime, which is to show students’ “Laker pride.”

“I think it is a great night to show support of your fellow Lakers and to show your support of your university,” Tibbe said. “We all come together, we all have one thing in common, and that is we all love GVSU.”