Letter to the Editor: Open letter from Grand Valley State University employees to our students

GVSU Employees

Dear Grand Valley Students,

Welcome to the start of Fall 2020! Whether you are new to our Grand Valley community, returning after some time away, or embarking on another year, we want you to know how much we value you and are committed to supporting you every step of your journey. We are here for you.

No matter if you are living on or off campus, studying online or in person or both, we cannot wait to welcome you into our classrooms. Irrespective of where you are from, what path led you here, or what your future plans may hold, we cannot wait to be able to work with you. Why? Because we value who you are and what you bring to our shared Laker community. Equally important, we believe wholeheartedly in the transformational power of education. That is something we give to each other. By working and learning together through higher education, we know our societies can become stronger and that you will acquire the skills necessary to not only live well but also to develop as leaders within our professions, communities, nations, and world.

This is not a typical Fall semester. We all know this. But it is an incredibly important one.  Some of you may worry that you will be blamed if the university needs to close unexpectedly or move to entirely remote work as we did in Winter 2020. We as faculty and staff will not blame you. These are uncertain and complicated times. Grand Valley’s administration has worked to create a safe campus environment and allow for a return to face-to-face learning this fall. We hope that our institution will not experience the same types of outbreaks that are taking place at other Michigan colleges, universities, and public schools. If we do, it will not be your fault. The COVID-19 virus is the problem, not students. We stand with you.

The last several months have changed us all. Like you, we have experienced pains, griefs, losses, and disruptions. We have experienced rage over persistent inequities and wrongdoing along with uncertainties about what lies ahead. We also have seen tremendous acts of courage, kindness, and selflessness. Like you, we persisted. These months have cemented our core values: a commitment to learning and teaching excellence, integrity, critical inquiry and lifelong learning, inclusiveness, community, sustainability, and innovation. These experiences have also stiffened our resolve, bolstered our commitment to act, given us hope and new energy. We cannot wait to build forward with you, our students.

Now more than ever, we know how important it is for students, faculty, and staff to work together. Our Laker community will become what we make it. As faculty and staff, we have been working all summer long to prepare your classes, learn new skills, make sure we are up-to-speed with the latest developments in our fields, and get our campuses and digital learning spaces ready to support your learning. Grand Valley has long been known for its highly engaged approach to education because of the individual attention we give to our students and our abiding commitment to supporting your success. This has not changed.  We really enjoy being face-to-face with you in our classrooms, laboratories, studio spaces, and libraries. For those of you who work full-time, cannot easily travel to our campuses, and/or are taking online classes, we are working overtime to be sure that your digital learning experience is every bit as engaging, supportive, and welcoming as we make our face-to-face learning spaces.

One of the numerous things that makes Grand Valley so special is that many faculty and staff were once first-generation-to-college students or “non-traditional” learners ourselves. We want you to know this about us. The way for us was not always clear. Some of us had many different careers. We made false starts and missteps at different points. We undertook long journeys and know what it feels like to be far from home. Because of where we have been, we can be your best resources. We put Grand Valley students first. Always.

While we may not know everything, we know many things, including how fortunate we are to be your faculty and staff. Although we might not all be the same, please know that we are all committed to your learning and well-being. Our differences are what make us stronger. We are here to support you.

All of you have made sacrifices to be here.  We are not going to let you down. Even better, we are going to do really good work together in the year ahead. Happy Fall 2020, Lakers!


Grand Valley State University Employees

[For a full list of signatures, see: https://sites.google.com/view/letter-to-our-students/home]