GV hosts Last Lecture event on campus


Courtesy / GVSU Student Senate

Isabelle England, Staff Writer

Earlier this month, Grand Valley State University’s Student Senate held its annual Last Lecture event. This event gives professors an opportunity to talk about what inspired them to become a professor and continue their teaching careers at GVSU.

The event showcased the ever-changing human culture at universities and highlighted the relationship professors have with their students and their field of study. This year, the professors nominated were Michelle Miller-Adams and Melba Velez-Ortiz, accompanied by her guide dog, Professor Chad.

“Last Lecture is held at universities across the nation, inspired by a speech delivered in 2007 by a cancer-stricken Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch titled ‘The Last Lecture,’” said Lina Haas, vice president of educational affairs for the Student Senate. “It focused on celebrating the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on death. He died at age 47, almost a year after giving the speech. This event is a student nominated event where professors give what would be their last lecture.” 

First to take the stage was Miller-Adams, who has been teaching at GVSU for 17 years and previously worked as a senior researcher at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Her research consists of social policy issues and focuses on tuition-free college. She has also written three books.

Miller-Adams teaches classes in poverty and inequality, in addition to senior seminars for Political Science and International Relations majors. She has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara and a PhD in political science from Columbia University, as well as a master’s of international affairs, also from Columbia University.

“My talk touches on a few themes – first, life is not what you expect it to be,” Miller-Adams said. “It’s fine to plan, but lots of things are out of our control, and seemingly random choices and events will shape your direction more than you might imagine. A second theme is how societal attitudes toward differences, including neurodiversity, have changed in my lifetime, in the direction of greater acceptance. Throughout, I’ll be talking about my daughter, who has a disability. Accessing services on her behalf has given me a whole new level of insight into how our society approaches assistance for those in need.” 

After her talk, the Student Senate welcomed Velez-Ortiz and Professor Chad to the stage. Professor Chad is a licensed and certified guide dog for the blind. He earned his doctorate in unconditional love and service in 2015 from the prestigious Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. This is the largest, oldest and most prestigious guide dog school in all of North America. He is a Sacramento, CA native and passed his final exam with 98% navigating the University of California, Berkeley campus. This will be his seventh year at GVSU. With Velez-Ortiz’s help, Professor Chad was able to give his last lecture. 

“Throughout his tenure at GVSU, Chad has enjoyed a successful career as a professor earning tenure in 2016 and promotion to full professor in 2022,” Velez-Ortiz said. “Currently, Professor Chad is ranked as top GVSU instructor according to ratemyprofessor.com. As Chad has reached the ripe old age of 8, he is now looking ahead to retirement this June.”

The Last Lecture is an annual event. For more information on the next Last Lecture and to stay up to date on what the Student Senate is doing, students can visit LakerLink or follow the Student Senate on Instagram @gvsustudentsenate.