GV conducts Campus Climate Focus Groups with staff


GVL / Samuel Nelson

Joseph Poulos, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University held Campus Climate Focus Groups for 2023 from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. These group discussions were specifically for faculty and staff of color and those who have disclosed that they have a disability. 

The purpose of the focus groups is for the university to receive feedback in order to make GVSU a more inclusive employer. The focus groups help gauge the real or perceived quality of interpersonal, academic and professional interactions on campus. People could register to participate in the groups online and each discussion group had a maximum of eight people.  

This particular pulse climate survey was just for employees and was a shorter version of the myGVSU Climate Survey that is conducted at least every three years.

The campus climate survey is a research tool which was developed by the Higher Education Data Consortium (HEDS).

The GVSU Campus Climate website defines a healthy climate as a community that is rooted in respect and initiates dialogue between different perspectives in order to create civil interactions between people.  

An institution’s climate in assessed according to three main criteria: experiences on campus, perceptions of campus and perceptions of institutional action and commitment for equity and inclusion. 

Chief of Staff to the President and Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, Jesse Bernal, is in charge of the Campus Climate operation. Bernal said he to make the campus a more comfortable and inclusive environment for staff and students alike.

“The goal is to better understand the perceptions and experiences of our students, faculty and staff,” Bernal said. “We use the data to work on improvements to campus climate – including creating more experiences to build community and a sense of belonging.”

Bernal said the nuanced research can help make the campus a better place for staff and students by presenting them with data and experiences demonstrating ways for GVSU to work towards the overall health of the campus climate.

“Research tells us that a healthy and welcoming campus climate improves student and employee retention,” Bernal said. “A major component of the surveys is to also identify differences between identity groups – do women experience our campus differently than men, do those who identify as Jewish have a different perception of our residence halls than Christian students, etc. When we identify disparities, we are able to identify possible actions to work to eliminate them.”

Bernal said the latest focus groups are a direct response to the data gathered during the 2021 Campus Climate Survey. The focus groups were planned after the survey as a way to gather further information on what employees may need to feel a greater sense of belonging and feel more connected at GVSU 

The findings of that survey will allow the department to focus on a few actions to take going forward. The university has used results of these surveys to help them reach their goals for Reach Higher 2025, which is a mission to empower learners in their pursuits, professions and purpose. Bernal said it allows them to see insights into how they can “build a culture of educational equity.” 

Bernal said it is important that individuals who have complaints or concerns about GVSU’s campus climate take part in the survey in order to achieve these goals and work towards progress. He said that there will be more of these events to gauge perspectives in the future. 

“Thank you for sharing your perspectives and experiences as we work together to create a stronger sense of belonging and community at GVSU,” Bernal said. “Opportunities to participate in pulse surveys will be provided regularly through 2025.”