Haas outlines annual goals for faculty, staff

GVL / Audra Gamble
President Thomas Haas during the annual faculty/staff address on Friday Aug. 26th in the Cook-Dewitt Center.

GVL / Audra Gamble President Thomas Haas during the annual faculty/staff address on Friday Aug. 26th in the Cook-Dewitt Center.

Audra Gamble

As the first day of class arrives, Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas is looking forward to 2016-17 and beyond. Sharing his goals with faculty and staff in an address Friday, Aug. 26, he emphasized the important role educators have in bringing students along with his hopes for the university.

Haas addressed the faculty and staff in the Cook-DeWitt Center just before formally welcoming the class of 2020 to campus, which is expected to be a record-breaking freshman class. While the final tally of students in the class of 2020 will not be taken until after the first week of class, this year’s group of freshmen is expected to surpass the class of 2018’s record of 4,226 students.

“Our enrollment will be stable, but I think our freshman class will be strong,” Haas said. “We attract and retain good students. We’re establishing relationships with our students and making a home for them.”

As that home grows larger and larger, Haas is focused on executing the 2016-21 university strategic plan, to ensure the future success of GVSU.

The strategic plan focuses on seven core values, including excellence, integrity, inquiry, inclusiveness, community, sustainability and innovation. It also includes many institutional outcomes and objectives for administrators to accomplish in the next six years.

“Our strategic plan has important stretch goals,” Haas said. “In 2018, we have our accreditation process and we’re ramping up for that already. We will quietly, but with crescendo, start our comprehensive campaign.

“This will all happen by 2020. This campaign these next years is going to be my priority, but it’s all of our jobs. It’s helping fulfill your promises in the classroom to our mission of educating students for their lives, professions and society. We touch the future.”

Acknowledging the work faculty and staff did throughout 2015-16, Haas pointed out the success of the Campus Climate Survey administered by the Division of Inclusion and Equity. The survey’s response rate far surpassed previous rates, including the national average.

Moving forward, Haas said increasing diversity and closing the achievement gap on campus will be a main focus for the university.

“We have seen improvements (in campus climate), yes, but we have room to grow,” he said. “I define diversity as an intellectual asset. It will help all of us to succeed.”

Recognizing the often hostile environment students are surrounded by, particularly in light of recent terrorist attacks worldwide and a vitriolic presidential election cycle, Haas reminded faculty and staff of the importance of the connections faculty can create with their students.

“It’s about caring: caring for one another, caring for our students and our disciplines,” Haas said. “With that caring, we’re serving our community as well.”

Despite the many and daunting goals ahead for this academic year, Haas said he remains excited and positive when thinking about the success of past, present and future Lakers.

“If you want to distinguish a graduate, it’s their competencies they bring into graduate school or the workforce,” he said. “The sense of optimism I have month after month is a remarkable part of being an educator,” Haas said. “It is noble work, and we’re doing it together, shaping students’ lives. You know what Grand Valley is? The best place for student success. That’s what it’s about.”