Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not much more to say

When it’s all said and done, what is an education worth? A student spends four years in a college (on top of the twelve or so years it took to get there first), working away, spending time, money, and effort, and what does he or she receive at the end? Well, a diploma, if you’re looking for a physical, tangible product. And a degree, if you ask about something that’s not physical, but still pretty easy to understand. A college education certainly makes an individual a more lucrative employee; ask anyone and they will probably say that an educated workforce is good for everyone involved. But there’s more to it than that. A laundry list of intangible, nebulous benefits comes with a college education, and the vast majority of them have nothing to do with a slip of paper stating that you completed a series of course requirements.

College is an experience. On tours all the time I will say that “if a student just goes to class, goes back to their dorm, studies, sleeps, and repeats, college will probably be a boring time.” And I’m not just referring to relaxing and having fun (which are still important), but instead I’m talking about a little introspection and self reflection. Not to sound too philosophical, but college is one of those times when people young and old can “find themselves,” seeing as you spend four years trying a variety of classes or activities, and, in some cases, living on your own for the first time. I would go as far as to say that a college experience wouldn’t be complete without a little self exploration.

But education is still the goal of college; it’s called “higher education” for a reason. And yes, a professional education that focuses on a major and a presumptive career path is vital, but, again, there’s more to it than that. Universities date back pretty far, and the mode of operation hasn't really changed: people who want to learn come together to listen to the words of men or women who are wiser than they (admittedly, tuition has risen since the time of the Greeks, but who’s keeping track, right?). Someone spends all of this time studying and, in return, they learn. They learn a profession, learn how to solve problems, or learn about the world around them and how their choices or actions interact with that world. Though on this count I may be biased; having a liberal education lends itself more to a broad understanding of the world, if you ask me.

And, to be honest and simple, a lot of growing up happens in college. In a very pragmatic sense, college can teach a student how to become an adult. Not just if you're living on your own, but in a host of other ways. For the first time ever (in many cases), you’re paying for your education, whether through out-of-pocket money, loans to be paid back later, or scholarships earned and kept through good grades. No one is chasing after you to complete homework or spend time studying. A pretty large portion of my instructors have told my classes, “I want you all to succeed, and I will provide the tools to help you get there, but ultimately, that journey is on your shoulders.” There’s no designated “lunch period” or “free time,” you’re planning your own day out. The resources to succeed or catch up if you fall behind are readily available, but it is the student's responsibility to seek those out. It boils down to the fact that college is a process, one which is remarkably difficult to complete without growing into a hard working, mature individual.

Plus, it’s totally fun. Seriously, I wouldn’t go as far as saying “best four years of your life,” but if you make the most of it, it will be pretty far up there. And that’s kind of the centerpiece of this whole argument: college is what you make of it. 30 seconds ago, I said that college is a process, and I still say that it is, but it may be more accurate to call it an opportunity. It can be as great or as dislikeable as you want it to be, or anywhere in between. Someone always tells me that I should be a "glass half full" kind of guy, and that's true when looking at one's education, as well. Your experience depends upon what you want to get out of it, how hard you’re willing to work for it, and how you react to the results.

I know there are several, several more reasons why a college education is worth the time, effort, money that it costs, but I’ve already droned on and lectured all of you for way longer than I should. Since we’re in the middle of the holiday season right now, I suppose I should wish everyone happy times and a safe new year, and, as always, ask questions if you have them.


More photos

I figured, since I'm more or less on my way out, I'd leave behind one more large set of photos. I wish I could say that I have some pictures of the downtown campus to share, but I'm afraid I don't. You'll just have to trust me when I say it's great. I should probably add the disclaimer that about 90% of these photos were taken five months ago; the campus sisn't this green in the middle of winter.

It's not a great angle, but this is an average classroom at Grand Valley; the average GVSU class is 28 students and one professor.

Here's a view from inside the Shakespeare Garden, one of my favorite spots on campus. You can't see it from this angle, but right next to me in this photo is a bust of William Shakespeare's head which, interestingly enough, was made by a member of the psych department.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Eh? Eh? Too much?

Some students playing some soccer in the Laker Turf Building.

The number 50 bus is the Campus Connector. During the weekdays, one of these buses comes through GVSU every six or seven minutes, and it takes about a half hour to reach the downtown campus.

Some students relaxing in The Connection.

What, no saxes?

Here's a hallway leading to the Neimeyer Great room.

The 20/20 Info Desk is the place to go (or call) with any GVSU related questions, or if you want to pick up free student athletic tickets. I don't actually know these two people behind it, but they were nice enough to say "sure, take a photo!"

And speaking of people on campus, here we are. Or at least our office, as seen from an elevator. Caitlin looks surprised.

The Carillon Plaza and Tower in the summertime.

Hopefully we'll get some images of the downtown campus up at some point, and maybe a few winter weather shots, but until then, this will have to do.


Friday, December 17, 2010


There's absolutely nothing special about this picture, and it has nothing to do with today's post, I just thought it looked nice

So here we are, on the last day of exams for the fall semester of 2010. It’s definitely quiet on campus, seeing as quite a few students are leaving or have already left for the holidays. As for myself, exams went pretty well. My senior project was submitted last week, I’ve been receiving feedback on presentations and tests, and there have been lots of end-of-the-semester festivities for clubs, organizations, and on campus jobs. Also, I graduated last week. I would shout “surprise!” but that doesn’t usually come through clearly in text. Did I just spoil the twist ending to this entry? Oops.

Well, as long as it’s fresh in my mind, I suppose it’s worth talking about. Commencement was last Saturday, which made coming back for exam week kind of weird, but what can you do. The event was at Van Andel Arena, and a shade more than 1000 seniors walked that day. It was actually pretty fun; I found another admissions student (she was walking for her masters in OT), found a few students I knew from classes, and listened to some commencement speeches. The recognition ceremonies for some of the distinguished faculty and the awarding of a pair of honorary doctorates was great, but the highlight (for me, at least) was the speech from former president Lubbers. It was fitting, since this fall GVSU celebrated its 50th anniversary, and while modern Grand Valley has been shaped by many hands, the work of Arend Lubbers played a very big role in the institution we see today. In 1969, when the university was still just Grand Valley State College, President Lubbers was 37, one of the youngest college presidents in the nation. Fast forward 32 years, to 2001, and he retired as the longest serving president of a public university in America. And from listening to him, anyone can tell that he had and still has a passion for the world around him, both as an educator and as a citizen. If you want to read/listen to his whole speech (it’s worth it), check out this link: There should be another link on that page to a youtube video of the address. But even aside from the great speech, it was very fulfilling to walk across the stage and acknowledge the hard work that went into getting there. I would encourage any student (at least any Grand Valley student) to walk at commencement.

And with that’ we’re drawing to a close on the last week of this semester and my college career. Admissions will still be open during most of next week, and I’ll still be here, so you can probably expect one more post (I’m not going to shut up just yet), but we are definitely nearing the end of the season. So post away if you have questions, and have a great weekend.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Faculty attention

The main entrance to GVSU's Honors College (this picture actually relates to today's topic)

Here we are, at the end of the semester, with less than a week left of regular classes. Exams will start next week, on the 13th, and wow, am I ever not ready. This semester seemed to last forever up until the start of November, and now I can’t figure out where the time went to. Still, my first exam is on Monday, so that leaves six days for me to prepare. That’s still enough, right?

Finals worries aside, there was another topic that I wanted to bring up today, and that was the close attention that students receive from instructors on campus. This is one of my favorite subjects, and probably something that I already bring up so much that I bore everyone to sleep with it, but there are two stories from yesterday that I wanted to share. The first is an Honors related tale: yesterday morning, I dropped by the Honors office to clear up a few details regarding a recognition ceremony, something that I’ve been communicating with the office about by way of email. At first, I thought I would have to run through my entire story again to explain my issue, but the girl at the front desk stopped me about three words in and basically said “no, that’s okay, I know what you’re worried about.”
After kind of an awkward pause, I asked if it was because she knew me, and she very calmly replied “yep.” Which wouldn’t really be that significant, except that I don’t make it into the Honors office very often. I drop by every once in a while for senior project concerns, or to drop guests off to explore the facility or during scholarship competitions, but I don’t live in the structure, and as much as I love the Honors community, I don’t make it into the office very often. Yet despite all this, the staff in the buildings central office knew exactly who I was, without looking me up on file despite the fact that the total Honors population (freshmen through seniors, living in or out of the building) is pushing 1000. If that’s not an endorsement for quality of attention found in the Honors College, I’m not quite sure what is.

The second story relates to an individual class: for about the last month, one of my courses has been “out of class,” not because we haven’t been doing anything, but because the entire class has been taking part in a number of individual presentations with the professor during the time that the class would usually meet. Keep in mind that my presentation was on the first day, November 8, and we just received our evaluations and grades yesterday, December 6. I scored relatively well on it, but I had a few questions, so I walked with my professor while he was on his way back to his office, and talked with him as we moved. The impressive part was the fact that as we’re walking, my professor is talking to me about some pretty specific details regarding my presentation, which occurred 28 days ago, without me having to remind him of my subject or talking points.

So I guess the long story that I’m trying to make short here is the fact that a GVSU student is not, by any stretch of the imagination, just a faceless number (and my imagination can stretch pretty far). Faculty on campus go out their way to learn who their students are, and you mean more than just “seat #117, who got an 84 on his exam.”

But I’m on my way out, so as always, be safe, send in applications, and ask any questions you please.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Almost out the door...

A lounge in the corner of South C Apartment Complex

Well, I suppose there’s time for one more update before the holiday. I hope everyone has a fun weekend (but restful certainly wouldn't hurt, either).

As long as I have the moment here, I wanted to mention how impressed I have been with a lot of the GVSU administrative staff lately. I’ve been interviewing several members of varying levels of administration over the course of this semester, and there are quite a lot of cool people working here. Aside from the fact that they’re all very enthusiastic about the jobs they do, I have a very strong understanding that the experience and welfare of the students at this university is top priority for them. I’ve had the chance to talk to a few staff members who have been here for quite some time, and it’s been very interesting to hear some of the stories of how the campus has changed or how the social atmosphere here has evolved, and most of them have more than a few humorous anecdotes to share. And that’s about all I have to say; just a little praise for Grand Valley administration. I’ve known for years now that GVSU has top rate faculty, and that the staff in dining, athletics, facilities and maintenance are some of the best you can find, but I didn’t realize until recently that this university is in as good hands as it is in terms of policy and direction.

All that aside, I think I speak for everyone in the admissions office when I say that we’re wishing all of you guys a safe and fun holiday weekend. Take care, and we hope to see some of you soon.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Odds and ends

Some of the artwork inside Padnos Hall of Science (photos are back)

Well, the weather has certainly taken a turn for the colder, and with Thanksgiving break just around the corner, it means we’re at the end of the fall. You might say that it’s the autumn of… well, autumn, I guess. Anybody have big Thanksgiving plans? I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m just looking forward to having an extended weekend. Classes finish up on Tuesday of that week, but Admissions will be open on Wednesday, and then it’s four days off. But I wouldn’t say it’s all break that weekend, I still have a senior project on my mind.

So lately I’ve been working on a few other projects for the admissions office, and have had a chance to talk with a lot of current students in an informal capacity about GVSU and the services offered here. There’s been a lot of talk about activities on campus, meaning that it’s probably a good time to make an update on campus life. Clubs and student organizations have surpassed 320 at this point, meaning that there are no fewer than 320 ways to get involved on campus (and, as always, it only takes four students to start a new club). Athletic events are going quite well lately; we have the first football playoff game of the season on Saturday, and tickets are free (which is nice; I didn’t know for sure if playoff games were covered for students). It also looks like the Padnos International Center is having a few on campus events, such as information meetings for students considering study abroad programs or a study abroad photo contest. And with the holidays approaching, there are quite a lot of fundraisers and charity events ramping up on campus. Blanket drives, book/toy drives, and winter clothes collections, they’re all taking place in the coming couple of weeks. It’s nice to see the student body get as excited as they do for on campus events, and to see as much spirit as you can find on campus for athletics, but it’s also great when the student body joins together and reaches out to the community.

But things here are getting a little too sentimental for me, so I figure it’s a good time to sign off, before I need a box of tissues. Post any questions or any break plans you have.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Visits, interviews, and competitions

Hello, everyone, it’s been a little bit longer than I’d like, but things are back up and running smoothly again (hopefully). As always, it’s been a whirlwind of activity around here; our counselors are right in the middle of their travel season, so keep an eye out, you may have one of our representatives visiting you soon. If you’re interested in visiting the campus, definitely consider giving us a call soon; a lot of our visits are starting to fill in for the remainder of this semester. Not that I’m trying to rush anyone, since there’s still plenty of time to make final decisions on college (refund dates haven’t changed, it’s still May 1 to withdraw most deposits), I would just really encourage any student considering Grand Valley to get an application in. December 31 is the deadline for the merit award scholarships, but don’t think that you have to have visited the campus to apply.

As a last note on career services, they seem to be pay off for me. Maybe. The update here is in the fact that I had a major interview this morning, and all week long I’ve been asking advice of staff members and working with career services (I had a staged interview just this Wednesday). From the looks of things, this has all helped; the interview went pretty smoothly, but I’ll know in a couple weeks for certain.

As far as admissions events go we’re just around the corner from scholarship competitions. The deadline for these isn’t until December 31, but for anyone who has already applied for admissions, been accepted, and been notified of award qualifications, December 4 is the first day available and a great chance to get in and take care of your merit competition early.
But it’s just a quick update for today, and hopefully setting us back on your regular blogging schedule. As always, post any questions that you have, and let us know about any college visit plans.