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Sunday, 08 June 2014 22:00

GVSU President Tom Haas

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GVSU President Tom Haas GVSU President Tom Haas COURTESY PHOTO

Tom Haas enters his ninth year as president of Grand Valley State University with a priority of formulating a new five-year vision.

As the university prepares to graduate its 100,000th student next April, a team is working to develop the next strategic plan for GVSU that Haas said will focus primarily on driving student achievement.

MiBiz spoke with Haas about the focus of the new five-year plan now under development and what he hopes the university can achieve in the future — as well as what it needs to look for in creating new academic programs.


Define your plan for the university for the next five years.

We’re in the process of developing our next strategic plan that’s going to take us from 2015 to 2020, and it’s a very participatory process with a number of people across the university — students, faculty, staff, board members, alumni and people around the community. We have drafted a vision statement that actually turns our former vision statement completely around. Before it was focused just in the university per se, but now what we have in our vision statement is, first and foremost, a focus on our students and student success. That’s going to lead us very well into these next five years.

How will that affect students?

We’re going to provide a commitment to our students with an inclusive learning environment. We’re going to look at the skills necessary for life-long, productive careers. As a university, we’re going to be known as innovative, and for our outstanding teaching and scholarships and especially community engagement and the stewardship of our resources.

How will the new plan differ from what you’ve had in the past?

Instead of what we had before with a set of goals that numbered eight, we’re going to really refine them. I think we’re going to have five goals all around measurable outcomes. In other words, a results-oriented strategic plan, all leading with the notion of increasing student success for the learning environment, for the inclusivity we want on the campus and the diverse campus we need to see. Because it’s going to be important for the students when they leave us, we want to make sure we have the partnerships and the collaboration with state, local, national and world communities.

Define what you mean by ‘student success.’ Is it academic success, career success, personal success?

We want to make sure that student success is, of course, attaining the degree that they have chosen to pursue. First and foremost, it’s having them attain that degree in a fashion that is keeping in tune to the academic rigor and also the academic calendar. We want to make sure students use their time effectively here. So it’s a matter of succeeding in all the coursework, but it goes beyond that, too. It deals with creating in them the values that we want as a graduate of Grand Valley and a person of character. From that, they can experience much of the development in the curricular and co-curricular programs that we have and maybe study abroad.

How does GVSU look to provide students real-world experience before they graduate?

Last year, we had 7,300 ‘experiential’ learning opportunities — co-ops and internships and clinicals and student teaching. We want to make sure students have those opportunities, and if they have those, we can look back and say we have provided the students that chose Grand Valley a well-rounded experience. They not only have the content and knowledge, but they now have the ability to adapt, the ability to critically think, the ability to work in teams, and the understanding of the inter-cultural competencies necessary for them in the workplace and their communities and to be world citizens.

That’s not to say you’re not already doing this, right?

We’re going to do it more intentionally. We’re being very, very intentional to ensure that what all we do here is relevant to our students and, in turn, student success.

Are there any new projects or programs the university will roll out in the next five years?

The internalization of the curriculum is one that we will see completed over these next couple of years. We will continue to look, especially at the graduate level, in those areas of the health professions. For instance, we just opened the speech language pathology program and we now have a master’s in public health, and we have significant enrollment possibilities in those arenas as well as the traditional health fields in physical therapy and occupational therapy and physician assistant area. So we’re going to see a real concerted effort in that realm.

How about outside of health care?

We will stay the course in providing all of our students that solid liberal arts educational base which will distinguish them in the workplace. From that base, they have that ability to continue to learn and adapt. We’re going to look at continuing our approach for access and affordability, of course. We’ll look at innovations with technology and hybrid courses and the like. That’s all part of the mix as I look at the landscape in the next five years.

You’re entering your ninth year as president at GVSU. Is it too early to talk about succession planning for you?

It is to me because I’m not going anyplace. I’m looking ahead to 2020 and beyond.

Read 3820 times Last modified on Sunday, 08 June 2014 21:59

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