Introducing the class of 2020

Hannah Lentz

Headline: Introducing the class of 2020 

Subhead: GV welcomes record-breaking freshmen class 

By: Hannah Lentz 

[email protected] 

For the 2016 Fall semester, Grand Valley State University welcomed not only the largest freshmen class in history, but also the most diverse. Though only 785 students of this year’s 4,380 student class reported being a student of color, this is the most diversified class that the university has seen to date. 

To break the numbers down, 219 students reported being African American or Black, 13 American Indian or Alaskan Native, 119 Asian, 270 Hispanic or Latino, two Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, 3573 White, 145 two or more races, 32 non-residential international and seven students non-reported bringing the total students of color to 785. Compared to last year’s 723 students of color, an increase is evident, though small. 

To assist with larger class numbers, the university has taken several steps to ensure student success, especially for freshmen getting used to campus and the resources available to them. 

The Division of Student Services recently created a full-time Student Ombuds position. Takeelia Garrett serves in this role and works to provide a safe and confidential environment for students to discuss and process difficulties. Students can contact Takeelia for a meeting ([email protected] or 616-331-2491) in her office located in the Student Academic Support Center on the 2nd Floor of the Student Services Building. Takeelia is also able to meet students at any campus location where they feel most comfortable.

“The great thing about GVSU is that it’s continually evolving to meet the needs of the current students,” said Dean of Students Eileen Sullivan. “I’m looking forward to continuing to use our great staff talent in ways that help students complete their goals and ultimately be successful.”

This semester also marks Sullivan’s inaugural year as Dean of Students.  One of the main points of focus for Sullivan looks at freshmen success. 

“What we know about first-year students, given the research on them nationally, is that we have about five weeks to get them connected to the campus and they get connected to GVSU through their relationships with faculty, staff and students and finding a sense of belonging,” Sullivan said. “Our hope is to do all we can to solidify that connection early and help students navigate any challenges they encounter.”

Sullivan plans on having “office hours” a few times each semester in the Kirkhof Center to connect with more students and hear directly from them regarding their experience at GVSU. 

Academics stayed consistent with previous years with the median GPA reaching 3.56 and the median ACT composite scores averaging at a score of 24, up from last year’s average of 23. 

Often, coming to college after directly following high school can result in a number of challenges that the university looks to handle Sullivan said. 

“Moving from a highly structured environment of high school to the more autonomous environment of college creates a need to become skilled at time management,” Sullivan said. “Making the transition to a more rigorous educational environment creates needs for academic support. And of course there are sometimes financial challenges, emotional challenges and challenges in finding a sense of belonging.”

In order to make up for this kind of “culture shock,” GVSU provides resources on-campus that look to handle any questions or concerns that may come up during a student’s first year. 

“Perhaps the most valuable resources available to first-year students are all of the students, faculty, and staff who are willing and eager welcome new students to the Laker family and share tips for success,” Sullivan said. “I’m looking forward to enhancing resources available to our newest students by working with my staff in student services to synthesize the plentiful campus resource information for students, making it particularly easy for them to access the help they need via website, email pushes and social media posts.”

The 2016-17 freshmen class also represents the highest number of students choosing to maintain an on-campus residence. This year, 3,747 freshmen are living on campus up from last year’s 3,608. With the addition of the newly opened Holton-Hooker living center’s 500 beds, there is more room on-campus than in previous years. 

In reference to choice of major, the most popular major went to students choosing an undecided area of study. In addition, 398 students have declared a nursing major, 242 students chose a biomedical science major and 230 students decided on a general business major. 

Sullivan hopes that the class of 2020 will have all the tools needed for a positive experience at GVSU. 

“I think that the interest in GVSU comes from our focus on student success,” Sullivan said. “The Laker Effect is strong, ever-growing, and something that families and friends remember when it comes time to submit applications.”