Faculty and staff address focuses on the future

GV / Emily Frye
President Thomas Haas

GV / Emily Frye President Thomas Haas

Audra Gamble

While today marks the start of classes for Grand Valley State University students, it also marks the beginning of a new academic year for the faculty and staff of GVSU.

Prior to the welcoming of new students at Convocation, GVSU President Thomas Haas welcomed the other half of the classroom model at the annual faculty and staff address. This year marked Haas’ ninth address, and he focused on his two goals for the university.

Haas wishes for GVSU to stay relevant to Michigan and for the university to have a global impact. These two guideposts are what Haas views will lead GVSU into the new strategic plan that the Office of the Provost has created for the university until 2021.

The incoming class of freshmen is a new record, clocking in at around 4,200 new students. Haas said he was looking forward to meeting the class of 2018 and that GVSU’s focus must stay on the students first and foremost.

“These young people are motivated, they’re ambitious, and we must be ready for them and for future students that are coming to Grand Valley State University,” Haas said.

However, before Haas focused on the future, he made sure to recognize the highlights of the previous year.

According to Haas, GVSU now has the third highest graduation rate in the state, behind only the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

“We’re in pretty good company,” Haas said.

Additionally, he celebrated GVSU’s retention rate being just below 71 percent.

“(Millennials) will pick up and go and that’s what our students are all about,” Haas said. “But (the students) came here this year, and come back this year to Grand Valley State University, because we are fulfilling the promises that we made to them.”

Haas also highlighted the new additions to campus including the newly renovated Kleiner Commons, Zumberge Hall and the new science building that will be open next year and the fact that the Mary Idema Pew Library surpassed one million users last year.

After briefly touching on the accomplishments of the past year, Haas noted that this April there will be 100,000 alumni of GVSU. However, he recognizes that continuing to attract new students will be a bit more of a challenge than in the past, as there will be fewer high school graduates in the coming years.

“The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education report predicts that in the 2019-2020 academic year, high school grads in Michigan alone will fall by 20 percent. That’s not far away. We’ve got to pay attention.”

However, Haas understands that there are many challenges facing the students of GVSU, and that the most important of those challenges to his is affordability. Due to GVSU’s performance, the university got increased funding from the state this year.

“We’re best in class. The governor said that, the legislators said that, and they did it because of our performance,” Haas said. “We are best in class and we were recognized for the first time in 13 year with an uptake in our state appropriation. Best in class is not a bad place to be.”

Haas said that GVSU always puts students first, and that is exactly what they did with the additional funding from the state.

“We are able to keep our rate of increase to the lowest dollar amount in the last decade and because of that support from the state and the donor support, our net tuition this year is lower than last year,” Haas said. “(That’s the) first time in our history that’s ever happened.”

Focusing on the 2014-2015 school year, Haas outlined some of his goals. These include reviewing the current bias protocol, making sure the university continues to be adaptable, ensuring that sexual assault of any kind will never be tolerated at GVSU, and staying focused on a student-centered mission statement.

“It’s all about our school, therefore it’s all about us and our students and all about the impact that we’re going be making,” Haas said.

Looking further into the future, Haas said he hopes to look at improving the Performing Arts Center as well as some living centers within the next five years.