Vice Provost for the Office of Graduate and Lifetime Learning at Grand Valley State University, Kara Van Dam, announced last week that Susan Proctor would be taking over as the next Director of Alumni Relations.
Proctor has recently assumed her duties as director and moved into the Alumni Relations Department in the Alumni House and Visitor’s Center. She will be taking over for Chris Barbee, GVSU’s Director of Alumni Relations for the past 20 years.
“Chris left big shoes to fill,” Proctor said. “He is a beloved personality amongst our alumni community, so I hope I can live up to those expectations of our alumni and the level of service that they’re used to having from Grand Valley.”
The university’s search for a new director attracted a wide variety of competitive candidates. During the hiring process, Van Dam said she was looking for someone who was passionate about understanding the needs of GVSU alumni and finding new ways to engage them in the community.
“When we did the search, Susan emerged as a great future director,” Van Dam said. “We had a lot of strong candidates, but at the end of the day, I think she really had that combination of all the characteristics we were looking for.”
Proctor, a GVSU alumna herself, started working for the university as the Assistant Alumni Director for roughly four years before transitioning to the Career Center in 2011.
During her time in employer relations, she worked to connect businesses and nonprofits with GVSU students for potential new hires. She also worked with alumni through the Career Center, helping them find internships and job opportunities for students.
Proctor’s colleagues, including Van Dam, have spoken highly of her and the skills she brings to the table, many of which they say go beyond her connections in professional development.
“I was really impressed with her deep experience in diversity, equity and inclusivity,” Van Dam said. “She also thinks a lot about how data can be used to help us make decisions and inform the decisions we’re making. We have over 130,000 alumni and I think that data-driven approach is something we definitely need.”
Now that Proctor has transitioned back to alumni relations, she said she is focusing on new ways to service the GVSU alumni community.
Proctor said some of her goals as the Director of Alumni Relations include reengaging underserved or inactive alumni such as veterans, non-traditional or adult alumni, alumni of color and alumni outside of West Michigan, as well as offering career guidance and programming to alumni.
In addition to this, Proctor said she is dedicated to making sure all alumni, especially recent graduates, feel supported by GVSU in their endeavors after graduation. She is hopeful to continue building relationships with the alumni community following graduation and aid them in navigating their paths.
“My mission is to say, ‘It’s not what you can do to give back to GVSU, but how we can continue to be here for you as you grow into your life and your career,’” Proctor said. “Our recent graduates have experienced a unique new world, and we want to make sure that transition is smooth and that they feel supported by the university to take that next step.”
Proctor is looking forward to working closely not only with alumni, but also with the greater GVSU community. She hopes to continue the legacy of helping alumni connect with current students and share their experiences with the Laker community.
“Our alumni are unique in that they really care about our institution, and they really care about our students,” Proctor said. “We have so many great alumni and I’m so excited to hear their stories, to tell their stories and to reconnect them back to help the next generation of students to have that same Laker effect and continue to build the reputation and connections that Grand Valley has provided for me and so many others.”