Convocation kicks off 2016-17 academic year

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - GVSU President Thomas Haas speaks at Grand Valleys annual Convocation ceremonies on Friday, August 26, 2016.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – GVSU President Thomas Haas speaks at Grand Valley’s annual Convocation ceremonies on Friday, August 26, 2016.

Kyle Bindas

Grand Valley State University has kicked off the school year with its annual convocation ceremony, welcoming new students to the university.

Included in the ceremony was an address from President Thomas Haas, where he thanked the incoming class for choosing GVSU as its university. He talked about the values that make GVSU what it is, including the importance of liberal education and how that takes form in the educational process.

“We are not here just to give you a set of facts and you can then share them again, just as you have memorized them,” Haas said. “But actually take those facts and grapple with them. Establish some new mindsets in terms of your ideas. And with that, this type of education experience will unleash your potential.”

Haas also discussed the important of civility and openness when dealing with people different than themselves.

“One of our values is that we do value civility and respect of each other,” said Haas. “Those voices are coming from people that might be different than we are, and that’s good, because we can learn from people different than we are.”

Danielle Leek, associate professor of communication, also spoke to the class of 2020 about the importance of being educated. She talked about the attack on American University in Kabul, Afghanistan, which took the lives of more than 13 people, including students and faculty of the university, and injured many more.

Leek said hateful and violent people are afraid of education, and the power that it provides, which could be a reason these crimes are committed.

“People who are educated, they can challenge tyranny, they can challenge dictators,” Leek said. “People who are educated can resist inequality and resent oppression. People who are educated are powerful, and they can change the world. That’s why people are afraid of education.”

Other speakers included David Collado, GVSU alumnus and president of the dog treat company Happy Howie’s. He attributed his success in the world of business to his experience at GVSU.

“Looking back at my life, and where I’m at today, I can honestly say that I owe most of success to Grand Valley,” Collado said. “Choosing a university is a big decision. I want you to know, you’ve made one of the best of your life.”

Collado emphasized the commitment the faculty of GVSU have toward the student body and his gratefulness for that commitment.

“On more than one occasion, the faculty went far beyond the call of duty to pave the way for me to succeed,” he said. “One time, a professor here tried getting me a job by calling local recruiters for me. Another time, a career counselor called lent me books from his personal library, because he knew reading them would improve my interviewing skills.”

Also speaking at the event were Gayle Davis, provost and executive vice president for academic and students affairs, Karen Gipson, chair of the University Academic Senate and Ella Fritzemeier, student senate president.