Moving up

GVL/Mackenzie Bush - Juanita Davis, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Juanita is the new assistant director of the office of Mulicultural Affairs.

Mackenzie Bush

GVL/Mackenzie Bush – Juanita Davis, Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. Juanita is the new assistant director of the office of Mulicultural Affairs.

Kyle Doyle

Grand Valley State University attracts a wide array of people from all over the country and the world. These people from all walks of life come together on one campus to earn a higher education and become Lakers for a lifetime.

For some, spending years here as students encourages them to come back to campus and make more memories as faculty or staff members.

That is exactly what Juanita Davis, the new assistant director at the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), did back in 2008.

“Grand Valley was near and dear to me,” Davis said. “I graduated from Grand Valley. I stayed in the area because of connections I had made at Grand Valley, so that was important to me with the opportunity.”

Davis, who graduated from GVSU in 2001, was hired in January 2017 to be the new assistant director for the OMA after coming back to campus in 2008 to work with the Oliver Wilson Freshman Academy Program.

Prior to working at GVSU, Davis was a career and academic adviser at Davenport University, and before that, she worked briefly as a teacher.

Before coming back to the OMA, Davis was working in the GVSU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Academic Advising Center (CLAS) when she applied for the position. After going through the interview process, she got an offer for a promotion at CLAS. However, she took the job at OMA because she felt it was a good time to transition and get back to her roots: helping first-generation and minority students feel at home.

“I started at Grand Valley working with first-generation students and underrepresented populations,” Davis said. “While CLAS indirectly allowed me to work with that population of students, this opportunity is focused on that aspect first.”

When she came to GVSU as a student, Davis said she went through a major culture shock in the transition from living in Chicago to living in Allendale, and it was the advisers she worked with that helped inspire her to do what she is doing today. Davis said whenever she felt like she couldn’t make it through or got a bad grade on a paper she worked hard on, her advisers gave her the confidence and advice she needed to keep going.

Since coming to the OMA, Davis has plans on how she wants to better serve the community of first-generation college students and the minority populations on campus. One of these ideas is having more interactive programming. She said a lot of events the OMA puts on are based simply on attendance and listening, but she and other OMA staff members want to change that in order to have more interaction in the programs.

Davis is also trying to build stronger relationships with other campus organizations that work with students in an effort to collaborate more and create channels for students to get more help if they are struggling with academics, campus climate, relationships with peers and other situations of this nature.

“One of the things that students of color often say at predominantly white institutions is that they feel invisible,” Davis said. “So, we’re working to make sure they don’t feel invisible, that they feel seen and that as a whole, Grand Valley wants them to be successful and that their success is important to us.”

Connie Dang, director of the OMA, is excited to have Davis back on board, as she sees Davis as someone who knows how to make students feel like they are a priority and will help them to have the best college experience they can have. Dang is eager about what Davis will do in the future.

“She is great at working one-on-one with students to provide that early intervention, challenge students but at the same time supporting them,” Dang said. “I see her as someone who can provide that nurture for students.”