Celebrating a legacy
Faculty recall their 45 years at GVSU
Grand Valley State University has many faculty and staff who have worked for the university for many years. For the first time in GVSU history, several staff members will be recognized for 45 years of service.
“When I started it was a very small school, and then it got a little bigger and a little bigger so every ten years or so it seemed like a whole new school,” said Lynn Blue, vice provost and dean of academic services and information technology.
Both Blue and Samir IsHak, professor of management and international business, have worked for GVSU for 45 years and have seen the university grow drastically over this time.
“There were only 1,000 students when I first started working here,” Blue said. “We went through a recession and a time when they were going to turn us into a prison.”
Blue added that GVSU has expanded more than she thought was possible when she first came to the university.
“One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is size. The virtual size of the student body is huge and there was no thought of a Holland or Grand Rapids campus, or Traverse City,” she said. “The reach is so much different now. (GVSU was) a rather small school and in the beginning was never intended to be a major university.”
IsHak has also witnessed GVSU’s evolution over the years, the least of which includes the name – going from college to university.
“The name was GVSC, ‘c’ for college that changed later to colleges, then only GVS and finally to university,” he said. “I enjoyed being interviewed by first president James Zumberge and the challenge of initiating new programs and courses. The promise of contributing to creating a new Institution.”
However, IsHak has a very different opinion on GVSU’s growth over his time at the university.
IsHak said that the biggest changes he’s seen at the university are, “changing the basic orientation of the university from exclusively liberal arts to professional education, the mushrooming of programs beyond control, the massive bureaucracy and top administrators, the loss of intimacy and knowing each other as faculty, the dispersion of buildings and faculty to the point that we do not know each other even in the same unit, (and) the unplanned growth and attending problems to name a few.”
Blue and IsHak had very different opinions on where they hope to see GVSU in the future and about the university’s changes over the years.
“I hope it’s just as fine a school as it is today,” Blue said. “That’s our niche and that’s what makes us different from others. We want to make sure that what students have is as good as we can make it and I hope we always keep that student focus.”
IsHak’s hopes for the future at GVSU were very different, including for the university to stop expanding.
“My hopes for GVSU in the future include not to grow beyond its present capacity in order to improve the quality of education (and) to cut its bloating top heavy administrative positions by one third at least,” he said. “…provost, vice presidents, deans, directors, eliminate all of them and replace with clerks since their basic responsibilities are clerical. We do not need an associate dean with a doctorate in economics or accounting to do what a secretary can do better and much cheaper.”
IsHak said that the need for many higher-level faculty or full-time professors is unnecessary and hurts the students with higher costs of attending college.
“Also, I hope we can freeze all tuition and fees cost if not reduce them,” he said. “They are not sustainable and are detrimental to the future of education. Stop the increasing number of other than tenure track faculty by using cheap labor of adjuncts, part timers and affiliates.”
His final hopes for the future included cutting back on GVSU’s construction of buildings.
“Stop buying or building new structures. And above all, maintain some resemblance of collegiality and human interactions among the constituents.”
Being at GVSU for so many years, Blue and IsHak gave faculty/staff and students some words of advice using their expertise.
“To faculty and staff, enrollment is really job one. That’s why we’re here is to enroll students and help them reach their goals,” Blue said. “Students, keep at it. If you’re thinking about stopping, think hard and don’t do it. Work to reach those goals.”
IsHak advised faculty to maintain their integrity and not do whatever it takes to have students give them a good score on evaluations.
“My advice to faculty: be demanding and fair. Stop babysitting your students in order for them to give you a five score on their fake evaluations,” he said. “Concentrate on your basic obligation and that is teaching first. Keep your integrity unblemished without playing up to please a boss or supervisor for a few pennies in your meager, too present salary adjustment. It is not worth it.”
For students, he gave the advice to take as much away from their time at college as they can.
“Complete your degree in three years (and) absorb all you can of knowledge while you can afford it,” IsHak said. “Learn by seeking demanding professors, not the push over ones for an unworthy grade. Build your network on campus, seize every opportunity to grow and mature, (but) still have fun and enjoy life and learn.”
As an added note, IsHak also gave his advice to the administration.
“Nothing. They are happy and confident and self-sufficient,” he said. “Try to hear rather than just listening politely. Rotate your positions. Lifetime appointments are a waste of life and your effectiveness drastically diminishes with the passing of every year of your tenure in one position as well as your reputation.”
Blue said that she has greatly enjoyed her time at GVSU and that it’s different from other universities.
“This is a great place to work,” she said. “You have a lot of latitude to do things and it’s not as bureaucratic as some other schools. If you have an idea, you can carry it out.”
Blue said that the biggest reason she’s stayed at GVSU is because of the students and the changes they go through during their college years.
“I love the ages from 18 to 22 because you make huge changes in yourself, and I will never stop marveling at that,” she said. “You go through as many changes during these four years as in the first four years of your life.”
IsHak said that overall he has enjoyed his time at the university and teaching over 360 courses and 11,000 students in the USA and overseas. He introduced and directed five programs at GVSU in public administration, legal studies, criminal justice, police academy, and urban studies. These coincided with the establishment of two new professional programs in business administration and health studies, which IsHak said at that time the words ‘professional programs’ were “pornographic to the ears of professors in liberal arts.”
“Grand Valley State University is a progressive and good institution,” IsHak said. “It has a competent core of faculty who are dedicated and serious about their profession. Everybody is wiring to the best of their abilities with dedication and in good faith. All must be recognized for their professionalism and efforts. The institution will continue to flourish and become a leading regional if not a national university. I was fortunate to be a modest contributor to its success and prestige.”