Q&A with President Haas

Grand Valley's Board of Trustees appointed Thomas J. Haas the university's fourth president in July and he joined the campus community in late August. He comes to West Michigan following 30 years in public service, including careers in the U.S. Coast Guard and higher education. Haas holds a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Connecticut and two master's degrees from The University of Michigan and another from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Haas has been a tenured faculty member, department chair, dean, vice president and president.

He shared some of his thoughts with Grand Valley Magazine's Mary Eilleen Lyon and WGVU's Fred Martino during his first days on campus.

Haas on Haas

"I describe myself as an educator, first and foremost as a teacher and a learner, an administrator and a scholar. I think those are the types of attributes I see in all good educators."

"Teaching and learning are on the same coin; as we teach we learn, as we learn we teach. I think that's a great model and it's a lifelong pursuit of mine."

"Many years ago, I was afforded the opportunity of working in Geneva with the United Nations, representing the Coast Guard in the development of hazardous materials regulations for the safe shipment of cargo in and out of U.S. ports. That's when I got my first understanding of how small the world really is."

On science

"My love of science, and chemistry in particular, began in junior high school and that's why I think it's important to establish some good relationships with K-12 districts. You can energize a young woman or a young man early in his development. I enjoy chemistry because you can tink around and make things happen. I think it's wonderful as part of a liberal education perspective because you can use chemistry or use sciences to explore the world."

"What we need to do is look at are ways to excite youngsters, excite our college population about a real way to take science and education and make the world better. I think if we can excite the potential within ourselves and, therefore, within our students, we can overcome some of the challenges of the gaps that we see in science and education."

On how he works

"I'm out and about. I'm an early morning person. I'll be on the computer maybe early in the morning and then I can get out and visit with people, have a cup of coffee, talk with students, maybe even play little basketball at noon with the faculty members, staff or students. I think those relationships can really help me do my job."

"I think it's a fundamental operating principle that shared governance be followed. Academic freedom and responsibilities are keenly important to me as a faculty member, and I know that shared governance is an important way to establish policy. Decisions we'll be making are going to be informed by faculty and other stakeholders as well."

"I do put service before self and also understand that through that pursuit and touching the lives of students is such an optimism that I can hopefully share with others."

On sports

"I did learn an awful lot about leadership in my coaching opportunities. I coached men's baseball. I coached women's basketball and was head coach of women's softball."

"Sports are an important way to establish pride overall, so it's important for the young people who are participating to know they are representing the campus, faculty and staff and the entire student body. I find that the great values are exposed -- character itself is exposed -- on the court and on the fields as well; and that's part of our job, to develop the whole person."

Page last modified July 28, 2011