The ceremonial start of the academic year began August 28 with speakers giving advice to new students about getting connected and studying hard in order to make the most of their college career.
It started also with President Thomas J. Haas engaging faculty and staff members during his opening address in a discussion about the “Grand Valley advantage” and how that formula of success will fit into the university’s strategic plan.
Dean Kamen gives an address during convocation August 28 in the Fieldhouse.
Convocation at the Fieldhouse was highlighted by the presentation of an honorary degree to entrepreneur and inventor Dean Kamen. The inventor of the Segway and other innovations, Kamen explained that while he never earned a college degree, he understands the value of an education. His message of connecting with students and faculty members on campus was similar to other speakers.
“I sat in the offices of many faculty members; sure I studied but what makes a university isn’t the textbooks, they’re all the same,” Kamen said. “It’s the quality and access to the faculty.”
Kamen is founder and president of DEKA Research and Development Corp. and the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). While he has given many commencement addresses, this was the first time Kamen was invited to give a speech at the start of a university’s academic year. He challenged students to find important problems to solve, and not to give up.
Gayle R. Davis, provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, addressed the audience and said she and other speakers shared a commonality with one-third of the new students present: they were the first in their families to attend college.
President Thomas J. Haas gives an opening address to faculty and staff members in the Performing Arts Center.
“There was an added pressure for us; it was a new world and our futures seemed uncertain,” Davis said. “But I will assure you and your families, while you are here at Grand Valley, you will be attended to.”
Megan Sall, member of Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees, said she was once a student attending convocation for the first time. “I was you,” Sall said, pointing to several new students, “not knowing what the future would hold for me.” Sall stressed the commitment Grand Valley will give to students if they make a commitment to the university. Sall, of Grand Rapids, earned two degrees from Grand Valley: a bachelor’s in international relations in 2007 and a master’s in public administration in 2009.
Karen Gipson, professor of physics and chair of University Academic Senate, asked new students for a commitment to meet and listen to the stories of someone new and different to them. “In doing so, you will learn more about yourself,” she said.
Samhita Rhodes, associate professor of engineering, was the first convocation speaker. What she had planned to say, Rhodes said, “was coming out like a bad Hallmark card.” Rather than platitudes for the audience, Rhodes offered investment advice.
“Today, you are investing in the most valuable thing you own: the one square foot that’s between your ears,” she said.
Maddie Cleghorn, Student Senate president, advised students to take a chance on themselves as they begin to write their own stories. She said taking a chance can mean many things, from speaking with an advisor, speaking up, or joining a student organization.
“Grand Valley works hard to be a place where you can succeed and be your authentic selves, and as Lakers, you owe it to yourselves to take advantage of these supportive communities,” Cleghorn said.
Haas delivered an opening address to faculty and staff members in the Performing Arts Center prior to convocation. He detailed the Grand Valley advantage as being known as the most student-centered university in Michigan, providing a holistic environment for teaching, learning and connecting.
He added that while remaining “true to its West Michigan roots,” Grand Valley faces challenges to create more access and more affordability for students. With less and less state funding in the future, Haas said there will be a greater dependence on private funding.
“We are, and must continue to be, Michigan’s model university, one that is focused on student success,” Haas said.
The campus community celebrated the formal dedication of the new P. Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science August 28 on the Allendale Campus.
In his opening remarks, President Thomas J. Haas welcomed and recognized those in attendance, including those who collaborated to bring the Kindschi Hall of Science to life.
“As a scientist myself, I could not be more excited about the opportunities this facility provides our students,” Haas said. “The addition of this facility significantly expands our space for students to do research with their faculty, which is a highlight of the Grand Valley experience.”
The new science building is named in honor of P. Douglas Kindschi, who has served the university for nearly 40 years in many different capacities and is currently the director of Grand Valley's Sylvia and Richard Kaufman Interfaith Institute.
Doug and Barbara Kindschi join others to cut the ribbon during the dedication ceremony of the P. Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science August 28.
“My nearly 40 years at Grand Valley have been more fulfilling than anyone could have imagined," Kindschi said. "To help a university grow from 5,000 to 25,000 students is an opportunity few in academia have enjoyed.”
The 151,720 square-foot, four-story building includes nine classrooms, 15 teaching laboratories, 14 faculty/student research laboratories, a computational research lab, study spaces, offices and conference rooms.
Gayle R. Davis, provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, said the these new lab spaces will yield a much broader impact on the university’s ability to teach the sciences to all students, not only those majoring in the sciences.
“Students who engage actively with their faculty and their subjects are most likely to succeed in college and in life," she said. "It takes a specialized space to facilitate those important collaborations and with this new facility we’ll be able to involve many more students in extracurricular research with their faculty members — strengthening the basis on which they will grow the sciences in our state.”
Academic programs housed in the Kindschi Hall of Science include Biology and Cell and Molecular Biology, as well as offices for the Movement Science Department and the Vice Provost and Dean of Academic Services and Information Technology unit.
Maddie Cleghorn, Student Senate president, explained during her remarks that one of the most special aspects of the Grand Valley experience is the relationship between students and faculty, which will only grow thanks to the Kindschi Hall of Science.
“Students here will now find it easier to schedule lab time for their courses, find research opportunities in our fields and we’ll have access to more spaces and resources to further our education," she said.
The $55-million dollar, state-of-the-art facility received $30 million from the State of Michigan; the remaining $25 million came from a variety of university resources, plus donations. The Kindschi Hall of Science is the first state-funded construction project on the Allendale Campus in 20 years.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof praised the public-private partnership between Grand Valley, its donors, and the state of Michigan.
“The numbers are impressive at Grand Valley. About 80 percent of students who graduate with math and science degrees stay in West Michigan, become productive citizens and raise their families here. That’s a great testament to Grand Valley,” Meekhof said.
More than 400 donors contributed to The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Margin of Excellence for Science Endowment Fund, which provides materials, technology and research opportunities across the university for students to have hands-on experiences in and outside of the classroom.
The Marketplace is connected to the Kindschi Hall of Science, which houses the 45,000-square-foot, two-story GVSU Laker Store (formerly the University Bookstore), Starbucks and Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, a made-to-order sandwich shop.
The building was designed and constructed for LEED silver certification.