GVL/Kevin Sielaff - During this year's freshmen convocation ceremony, those just arriving to the university learned of Grand Valley's core values and what they can accomplish as a member of this school's community.
Grand Valley State University’s Convocation launched the official start to the school year with a reminder to students, old and new, to embrace the inevitable: change.
“Education itself always initiates change,” said GVSU President Thomas Haas.
Convocation was held in the Fieldhouse Arena on Aug. 22. Professors representing all academic departments attended in full academic regalia, followed by Provost Gayle Davis and President Haas.
The ceremony included remarks from several distinguished members of the GVSU community, the screening of student-produced video presentations and performances by GVSU’s Brass Quintet and the University Arts Chorale.
In a reflection led by Dr. Matthew Boelkins, associate professor of mathematics, he shared his hopes for the coming school year with students.
“May we each take time this school year to think about big things and embrace the small things,” he said.
Provost Davis offered the official welcome, directing words of encouragement to first year students and highlighting the important role that faculty and staff play in creating a true liberal arts education.
Davis made it clear that professors are not present to coddle students, but rather to encourage them to go above and beyond.
“(Professors) are here to challenge your abilities, but they will support you every step of the way,” Davis said.
The ceremony included a video history of GVSU from 1963-2014, showing that the university’s effort to encourage and embrace change goes beyond what it expects from its students.
Karen Gipson, chair of the University Academic Senate, cited change as the essential reason to hold the convocation and the central purpose of a liberal education. She re-emphasized that change is unavoidable and that students should accept it rather than attempt to run away.
“Human nature is to react to changes like this one with a mixture of excitement and trepidation,” Gipson said. “But it is OK because change is natural, in fact it is inevitable. Physical reality is that everything changes. Change offers you tools for lifelong learning – a lifetime of inevitable change.”
Gipson reminded students of the university’s support of their pursuits, however she said that faculty and staff can only offer the tools.
Gipson said that how you respond to change can determine the course and quality of your life. Embracing it with curiosity will result in a life of success.
Matthew LaVere, the university convocation’s first alumni representative, told students to take control of their own lives if they wish to be happy.
“Do what you love and never settle with the status quo,” LaVere said. “The more you pursue what you love, the happier you will be.”
Student Senate President Andrew Plague spoke about the importance of humbling yourself in order to be able to take ownership of one’s college experience. He encouraged his peers to become involved on campus as soon as possible.
“Getting involved makes GVSU feel like home,” Plague said.
Haas encouraged each and every student to become involved in one of over 300 organizations on campus.
“By joining you are serving others and yourself and developing leadership,” Haas said.
The formal welcome to the class of 2018, approximately 4,200 students strong, was the official start of the academic year for the university.
“We didn’t ask for life,” Boelkins said. “We did nothing to cause ourselves to be alive, and yet, it is good to be alive. However you woke up this morning, we are glad that you are alive and we are thankful that you are at Grand Valley.”