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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
GVSU aims for the 'forefront' of life sciences
(wgvu) - GVSU aims for the 'forefront' of life sciences

May 8, 2008

By Mark Sanchez

To see the economic future of Grand Rapids, all one has to do is look
up Michigan Street near downtown.

The construction cranes, the orange barrels and the traffic detours all
reflect the massive medical and research buildup now occurring on the
Medical Mile.

As the life-sciences sector emerges and grows in Grand Rapids, Thomas
Haas sees his job as making sure Grand Valley State University is
properly positioned to provide the workers needed now and in the future
for that field.

The whole industry is evolving, and I want to be on the forefront of
that, said Haas, who notes the university's long and strong
involvement in health education, with some 5,000 students presently
enrolled in various disciplines.

The university is now accelerating its role in the sector in an even
broader way, Haas said.

What we're seeing is a continued and a very strategic approach at
Grand Valley State to respond to the needs of the region and the
state, he said. That, to me, is one of our fundamental
strengths as a university.

Among GVSU's academic plans for life sciences are:

The creation of a bachelor of science degree in pharmacology, the
process of which is in its early stages with the program targeted to
begin in the fall of 2009

The creation of a degree in biomedical engineering by the Padnos
School of Engineering and Computing, perhaps launching as early as this

The recent Senate Faculty approval of a doctoral degree in nursing
at the Kirkhof School of Nursing. The program still needs the approval
of GVSU trustees. Haas expects action to come in July with the program
targeted to launch in the 2009-2010 academic year

Adding health-care emphasis to the master's in business
administration program this fall.

We will keep our eyes open to opportunities, ensuring that Grand
Valley continues to be relevant and responsive at an accelerated rate
and deliver the academic programs so that the people who graduate from
them are ready for these emerging industries, Haas said. What you
see Grand Valley doing is really operating the way the whole region
does. What is one of the things that comes to mind about West Michigan
entrepreneurism and innovation. Grand Valley is a great reflection
of that type of value structure.

Information technology and engineering have the potential to become new
degree programs in the future. Specifically, Haas sees a degree in
bio-infomatics as a possibility for GVSU, as well as the potential for
new programming in health-care administration.

The moves by GVSU reflect the buildup in Kent County in health care and
life sciences, a sector that in 2006 directly employed more than 35,000
people and generated an economic impact of $1.7 billion in the county,
according to a report by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association,
Michigan State Medical Society and Michigan Osteopathic Association.

As many areas in life sciences experience or forecast worker shortages,
GVSU's strategy can help, since a high percentage of graduates stay in
the region, Haas said.

Haas, a chemist with a background in public health, notes the strategy
to build GVSU's life-sciences offerings was put in place by his
predecessors, Arend Lubbers and Mark Murray, well before his arrival.
Under Lubbers, GVSU built the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences that
houses academic programs, as well as the West Michigan Science &
Technology Initiative and its business incubator.

GVSU is a partner in the WMSTI, which Haas calls a distinctive
center that works to support life-sciences companies and
commercialize research.

That is the whole nature of where I want to take this, he said,
noting additional partnerships with the Van Andel Institute and Michigan
State University.
On the partnership with MSU, You'll see some things probably come
out in the next year.
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