Strategic Planning Committee seeks stakeholders’ opinions

Claire Fodell

Grand Valley State University’s Strategic Planning Committee hosted its first of many strategic positioning conversations Monday to collect ideas and suggestions from stakeholders of the university.

Students, faculty and staff members were invited to answer questions on large sticky notes and hang them up on a giant piece of paper so the SPC could gather suggestions on how to answer three questions: What should GVSU aspire to be? What attributes and abilities should GVSU graduates possess? How can GVSU distinguish itself from other universities?

Mark Luttenton, biology professor at GVSU and member of the SPC, said the committee hopes to develop a plan for GVSU for the next few years based on the conversations.

“The idea is to get as much input, all across the university and the community, to help the strategic positioning, strategic planning committee that’s been formed on campus to develop a strategic plan for Grand Valley,” Luttenton said.

The committee began meeting last winter, but its planning is really picking up speed this fall, he said.

“We started meeting last winter semester to kind of get things started, and the fall is when we really started to get input and feedback from the community for a developing plan,” Luttenton said.

Matthew Boelkins, mathematics professor and another member of the SPC, said the committee has a wide range of goals for the outcome of the conversations.

“One of the goals is to make the process inclusive and to have a wide range of different stakeholders say what they think is important to them,” Boelkins said. “What you can sort of hope emerges is that there are themes so that you say, ‘Oh, lots of people think this would be an important thing for Grand Valley to do,’ and then to see if that aligns with what the Board of Trustees and the executive leadership of the school think is important.”

Around 45 people attended the meeting on Monday morning, and more than two dozen campus community members voiced their opinions at the second meeting that day.

Youssef Darwich, a GVSU student who participated in the conversations, suggested the committee “provide an area for students to actively experiment and try new things and take risks that they maybe wouldn’t if they’re on their own, and have a support system of students and faculty around them.”

Darwich is optimistic that the SPC will use the information from the conversations to better the university.

“I hope they really listen to it, because there is a lot of wisdom here at Grand Valley—students, faculty and alumni alike,” he said. “I understand that a lot of the goals that students write down might not be realistic, but they definitely should consider them because there’s definitely good ideas.”

The strategic planning conversations are also being used for teaching hands-on skills to graduate students, such as Eva Jenson, a student in the master’s of public administration program at GVSU.

Jenson’s strategic management and planning course is using the conversations as an opportunity for out-of-the-classroom learning. She and her classmates are helping to facilitate the conversations and to evaluate the findings afterward.

“We’ll take all of the answers to the questions and code it so that we can analyze the data, and then we will present a paper and a presentation to the Strategic Planning Committee on our findings and what the trends are based on the stakeholders’ answers and input,” Jenson said.

More strategic positioning conversations are scheduled for today, with the first being held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in 107C University Club of the DeVos Center on the Pew Campus. The second meeting will go from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the same location.

Virtual sessions will also be held today from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For instructions on the virtual sessions, visit

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