Reception being held for graduates of color

GVL / Archive
GVSU graduate waves at her friends and family at the 2015 Commencement on Saturday April 25.


GVL / Archive GVSU graduate waves at her friends and family at the 2015 Commencement on Saturday April 25.

Jess Hodge

In a matter of weeks, Grand Valley State University students will walk across the stage and assume their new title as GVSU alumni. A majority of those students will be Caucasian, as GVSU is a predominately white school. The Division of Inclusion and Equity will host a reception on April 21 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. to honor the students of color who will be graduating.

The reception, which is being held for the second year, will be in the Grand River Room and will feature President Thomas Haas and Lynn Blue, vice president for enrollment development, as guest speakers.

The event, although it will be honoring and celebrating students of color, is open to all students who would like to attend and support their fellow students. Takeelia Garrett, an organizer for the reception, said it will be a great event for any student.

“This is just a reception with food, music, karaoke, a photo booth and a few words to congratulate them on their achievements,” Garrett said. “Students (also) had an option of submitting a photo to be placed on a slideshow that will play at the beginning of the reception.”

This event, while being fun and providing entertainment for students, will also aid in helping GVSU’s students of color to feel more at home on campus. African Americans, Asians, American Indians or Alaskan Native and Hispanic or Latino are all considered students of color.

“This is a predominately white institution and it sometimes a culture shock when students of color come to campus,” Garrett said. “Having programs such as these show our students that they are a part of the community and they are cared for. We are celebrating and supporting their achievements.”

The lack of diversity at GVSU has long been a problem. Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015, there were 4,314 degrees awarded at GVSU. Of those degrees, only 463 went to students of color. White students made up the majority of the graduates, with 3,724 degrees awarded. This is an increase from previous years, such as 2012-13 when students of color made up only 436 of the 4,448 graduates, while white students made up 3,905 of the degrees.

This number is slowly increasing as the population and diversity at GVSU expands. Garrett said she is hoping the number of students of color who graduate will increase over time.

“I am hoping there is an increase,” she said. “GVSU faculty, staff (and) students have worked really hard to increase the numbers of students who graduate within four to five years.”

The reception will not be much different than last year’s, except for the addition of karaoke. Garrett said the planning committee was also smaller, and hopes for students to be involved in the planning process next year.

Garrett was pleased with the amount of group work and collaboration between departments of the university to put this event on.

“Blue has been a supporter of this event from its inception,” Garrett said. “Her office, along with Inclusion and Equity, has supported this as well as many other endeavors both financially and with staff support.”