GSU/50: Academics, arts make GSU great asset to Homewood-Flossmoor community

Elaine Maimon, president of Governors State University, invites Homewood and Flossmoor residents to campus to see the changes that have been happening.

Governors State University President Elaine Maimon. (Provided photo)
  Elaine Maimon is President of
  
Governors State University.
  
(Provided photo)
 

“We want to be seen as a great asset to Homewood-Flossmoor and all our surrounding communities,” she said. 

The university was organized in 1969 to take students with some college experience, primarily from the Illinois network of community colleges, and help them finish a college degree through junior/senior level classes. Or, students could enroll in a master’s degree program.  

Since those early days, GSU has become a comprehensive university with small freshman/sophomore classes and it has expanded to offer doctorate degree programs.

Students today can enroll in one of 34 bachelor’s, 26 master’s or five doctorate degree programs. GSU also offers six online degrees and 20 certificate programs.

As GSU marks its 50th anniversary, the university is being recognized for having made a difference in the lives of thousands of teachers, business leaders, nurses and health care workers and those in dozens of other professions.

“For the next 25 years, we have a lot of work to do,” the president said. “I believe we are doing what higher education should be doing nationally and we need to lead the way.”

Maimon said GSU has been cited for its work with adult learners. The average age is 32, and nearly 70 percent are women. Although GSU has underclassmen, the university remains committed to its older students. 

According to Maimon, the very students GSU serves — first generation college students, veterans, women and minorities — are now the majority of college students across the country. 

“In 1969, the minorities, adults, first generation students, returning veterans — that group — was in the minority in higher education. Now they are the new majority. They were underserved in 1969 nationally and they are underserved today. The difference is they are now the majority in higher education and that means that in higher education there has to be a sea change in really understanding that. We have to serve the majority.”

At the same time, Maimon believes GSU must serve those who are now in the minority — the traditional 18- to 22-year-old college student.

GSU students drive to campus, take classes and then drive back home. For the majority of students, that is still the case, but Maimon, who led the university into its move to add the lower division, says having freshmen and sophomores living on campus is changing the atmosphere. 

A university, in the traditional sense, is blossoming. Today, it has a residential building, Jax the Jaguar is the school mascot and its nine sports teams are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. 

The university continues its work with transfer students through its dual degree programs that help students in junior colleges set a path that will get them to GSU without any hassles and put them in a curriculum to earn their bachelor’s degree.
 
The dual degree program has been touted as a model for other colleges around the country and received special recognition from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Many in the community may know of GSU not through its academics but its arts. The university is home to the Center for Performing Arts, bringing great artists to the regional stage year-round, as well as hosting GSU student performances.

And, GSU is home to the internationally acclaimed Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, with 29 master works spread across the campus and accessible from walking paths.
 

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