Introducing the class of 2020

Introducing the class of 2020

Hannah Lentz

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

To break the numbers down, 219 freshman students reported being African American, 13 students identify as American Indian or Alaskan native, 119 are Asian, 270 are Hispanic or Latino, and two students are Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Of the 4,380 freshmen, 3573 identify as white, while 145 students reported being two or more races. Included in the class of 202 are 32 non-residential international students and seven students did not report their ethnic identity, bringing the total students of color to 785. Compared to last year’s 723 students of color, an increase is evident, though small.

“GVSU has a commitment to inclusion and equity as expressed in our university values but also articulated boldly in our 2016-21 strategic plan,” said Jesse Bernal, vice president of the Division of Inclusion and Equity. “The strategic plan outcome B focuses on making GVSU more diverse and inclusive, including the demographics of our campus.”

Though ethnicity is not a factor considered in GVSU’s admissions process, the university looks to create a campus climate and reputation that attracts diverse and talented students, Bernal said. Graduating diverse alumni also assists in these efforts.

“Much of the credit should be given to our admissions staff and other volunteers and alumni who showcase Grand Valley so well during the recruitment season, with deep attention to inclusion and equity,” Bernal said.

One notable increase is the significant rise in the Latino first-year student enrollment, which has increased by 29 percent compared to last year.

“The increase in racial and ethnic diversity among our first-year students points to the necessary work we have ahead to continue to enhance student success and retention,” Bernal said. “This happens in many ways and with partners and leaders across the university.”

One example of this comes from an opportunity for all undergraduates through the Division of Inclusion and Equity with a focus on students of color, LGBT students and others. The university encourages students to participate in the Laker Connections mentor programs, where students are paired with faculty and staff mentors. Other units across the university continue to work to ensure students are supported both academically and socially, Bernal said.

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

Academics stayed consistent with previous years, with the median GPA of the class of 2020 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 freshman 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 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.”