Haas Higher ed, business partnership vital to future

September 27, 2009
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Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas said last week his biggest worry is a lack of vision for Michigan in the state capital.

“When I look at the state and look at their policies, what keeps me awake at night is … our leadership doesn’t understand and cannot formulate a vision for the future,” Haas said in a Wednesday speech that inaugurated the 2009-10 Seidman College of Business Alumni Association Breakfast Series. “But I think with the confluence of business and higher education, we can help form that.

“Our state needs leadership,” Haas said. “I think that leadership needs to come now from the business sector and in combination with the educational sector — the higher educational sector. So I think we must have a strong partnership between our two sectors as we move on into a Michigan that we want to see. I’m not ready to turn the lights off.

“The shrinking state budget is based on the old model. That has to change,” Haas said. “Public education is so integral to our future that we have a moral obligation to nurture it.”

He cited the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative in Grand Rapids and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon, both GVSU programs, as examples of the university working closely with business.

“I think that Grand Valley is more involved with more direct relationships with the business community than any other public university here in the state,” Haas said.

Higher education and business can work together to forge the future of a diversified economy, Haas said. GVSU’s product is “talent,” he said, a work force educated in a curriculum shaped by both academics and the needs of the business community.

“When we talk about this new economy … we’re talking about the capital that fuels it is talent,” he said. “That’s the talent of our students; it’s the talent of our faculty and staff.”

GVSU also intends to continue and enhance cooperation with other educational institutions, include Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, Grand Rapids Community College, Muskegon Community College and Grand Rapids Public Schools, he said.

He said as the number of high school-aged youths declines, it’s imperative for Michigan to find ways to keep more college-educated workers in the state.

“It’s the demographics that’s changing, but here in Michigan, it’s exacerbated by the flight out of the state,” Haas said.

Co-op jobs, internships and programs such as the full-time master’s in business administration degree that is forthcoming at the GVSU business school help keep young talent local, he said.

“It is wonderful to see the relationship between Grand Valley and the business community create these opportunities,” Hass said.

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