Honest Feedback

This week, Grand Valley State University began to hold strategic positioning conversations to hear ideas and suggestions from students, faculty and staff regarding the direction of the university. The SPC posed three questions to attendees: What should GVSU aspire to be? What attributes and abilities should GVSU graduates possess? How can GVSU distinguish itself from other universities?

Certainly the feedback from attendees was valuable and generally representative of the various sectors of the GVSU community. However, we would like to assert our opinions as involved and informed members of the student body to provide some (possibly) fresh perspectives.

What should GVSU aspire to be?

GVSU is earnestly a great university that has been growing rapidly in recent years, as made evident by a record-setting freshman class and the massive construction projects completed on both the Allendale and Grand Rapids campuses. The university’s past should not necessarily dictate its future, though. GVSU has been marketed as a personal educational experience with small class sizes, invested and personable professors and easily accessible opportunities. Rapid growth may have been its past and still be its present, but its future should remain true to the initial values of GVSU. Keep it simple and small.

What attributes and abilities should GVSU graduates possess?

GVSU graduates need what a liberal arts education is trying to provide them: a well-rounded education. Trying different classes and garnering seemingly unrelated skills and facts are essential to constructing a thoughtful graduate. GVSU alumni should be characterized by strong critical thinking skills, an unquenchable desire to grow, and an impressive knowledge base ready for expansion.

How can GVSU distinguish itself from other universities?

The main way that GVSU can set itself apart is not to aspire to be like other schools. For example, GVSU is often complimented for being the “Best in the Midwest” because of its quality of classes, small class sizes and small-school feel. If GVSU tries to grow too quickly to compete with larger Michigan universities, it will lose the niche that it has right now. Along these lines, its governing bodies shouldn’t justify policy decisions—such as rejection of the fall break model—by what other universities are doing or have done. If GVSU is meant to stand apart from other schools, its leaders should make a true effort to make some distinctions.

While we do have opinions and concerns to address, one thing we can’t complain about is the university’s attempts to take student and faculty needs into account. GVSU administrators have done well this year in gathering community perspectives, and that is one thing that should not be compromised as they strategically position GVSU for future growth.