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Gheretta Harris

Associate Vice President, Auxiliary Enterprises

by John Smith - April 11, 2019

Gheretta Harris

Simple and clear language is offered in the mission statement to certify that Ferris State University “aligns its practices and resources in support of its core values of collaboration, diversity, ethical community, excellence, learning, and opportunity.”

For Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises Gheretta Harris, the resources, facilities and programs that are grouped in her department present a myriad of opportunities to meet basic, social and recreational needs for Ferris students and university employees, along with visitors, alumni and West Michigan residents.

A primary consideration for this facet of the university’s Administration and Finance division is providing a safe, welcoming and comfortable array of student housing options, through the Housing and Residence Life program.

“It is the operation that has the biggest effect on our students,” Harris said. “Our residence hall lobbies are like their living room, and we seek to make it their home for the academic year.”

North Hall, a $28 million residence facility, was opened in August 2017, to place freshmen students in the center of campus. Harris said that as of the Fall 2019 semester, there will be a greater opportunity available to continue or share that experience with more Ferris students.

“We want to accommodate students who wish to stay on in North Hall, or welcome those who began as freshmen residents elsewhere on campus,” Harris said. “There will be 100 of the hall’s 400 beds made available for this purpose.”

To accentuate the university’s free summer housing program for full-time student workers and Summer 2019 students, Harris said that they will be lodged in the air-conditioned comfort of North Hall.

“This is a way to reward our participants, and make the best use of our available facilities,” Harris said. “Those who seek to enjoy the summer in North Hall will need to complete their 2019-20 housing contracts with the university.”

Work to upgrade Clark Hall began in Summer 2018, with new furniture and renovation of the existing community living spaces. Harris said that this work was designed to expand upon the North Hall experience.

“Our Clark Hall residents love what has been accomplished,” Harris said. “After the spring semester, repainting the residential areas is planned there, and we will be bringing in new furniture for the students’ rooms.”

With an eye on sustainability and cost-effective management of the residence hall system, Harris said that her department is evaluating methods to refurbish some existing furniture.

“This is very much a business,” Harris said. “We recognize the amenities that we want to provide to our students while taking the actions appropriate to offer them an affordable housing program.”

The philosophy of supplying value and offering support to students includes a significant cost reduction for International students, who look to the residence hall system and their North and South Bond Hall rooms as their place to be at Thanksgiving time, near the Christmas season and during spring break.

“We had heard that these students were trying to find a couch to sleep on, since returning to their homelands during those periods was not an option,” Harris said. “We have focused this service to that residence hall complex and offered it as an opportunity for them, in a goodwill gesture that can be provided at a reduced cost.”

Students, staff, faculty and area residents come together throughout the day in the Rock and Quad Cafés, with the percentage of non-student customers seen as an important aspect of the Dining Services operation.

“While we don’t have an information capture on retail business at The Rock Café, we know there is a considerable uptick in traffic there on the weekends, which is attributed to our public customers,” Harris said. “Those customers’ use of Dining Services is an important aspect of the operation, which allows us to meet costs and remain an affordable resource for our students. Everyone in Dining Services and Auxiliary Enterprises is proud that we have received Mecosta County People’s Choice awards each of the last two years, as the best buffet and best catering operation.”

With The Rock Café approaching 10 years of operation, Harris said their many customers from the campus and community can look forward to “Refresh The Rock” efforts scheduled for the summer of 2020. That work will include developing and placing an allergen-free serving station, to be available by the start of the Fall 2020 semester.

“It is a priority for Dining Services to acknowledge customer needs, and be responsive,” Harris said. “We are also reworking the Dining website, so our dietary information has greater detail because that information is crucial to some elements of our user base. These are matters of great interest to students and their families, along with other customers. Everyone should receive the service and support they require, and we are very glad to take the necessary steps to be a more inclusive operation.”

Opportunity and soft drinks rarely come together in an academic consideration, but Harris was directly involved in the bid process for beverage provision that was completed in Spring 2018. As a result, Pepsi products are being served in the dining areas and sold in vending machines across campus. There are tangible benefits due to this change.

“The Pepsi Beverage Company has pledged $50,000 through the Ferris Futures Scholarship Challenge, with those awards going to students who use our housing and dining services,” Harris said. “The company also agreed to contribute $7,500 annually to The Ferris Foundation, for the life of this contract. Beyond this financial commitment, Pepsi has demonstrated their active partnership in major campus events, like Founders’ Day and Homecoming.”

There will also be an adjustment to the traditional avenues of delivering nourishment on campus, as Harris said a food truck is likely to make its debut on campus, later this year.

“This is a vibrant trend in academia, we are very happy to be preparing our response to what we believe will be significant demand for food, where the students or their celebrations might be,” Harris said. “Focus groups will help us define when a truck might operate, where that would work best on campus, and to offer input on what kind of menu would be most enjoyable. We are willing to be adventurous at first until the best options present themselves.”

Auxiliary Services has given over administration of athletic summer camp programs, but Harris said they remain very active with the housing and feeding of these guests, and prospective Ferris students.

“Since The Rock Café is their source for meals during their stay, we can see up to an additional 400 people coming to us daily, generally hungry and looking for service,” Harris said. “We have to carefully juggle schedules to meet their needs and provide timely and satisfying menus.”

The student-public customer mix is present in many other Auxiliary Enterprises operations, Harris said. As a stubborn winter finally begins to yield, the Ken Janke, Sr. Golf Learning Center will become available to the public. The Ferris campus community was welcomed to a late February open house, and the two-story, 9,500 square-foot facility located at the Katke Golf Course, which houses the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame opened on Monday, March 4.

“We are very excited to bring on a year-round facility to support learning for our Professional Golf Management students, the university’s men’s and women’s golf teams and players, regionally,” Harris said. “We will explore public offerings like individual and group practice and play, along with league competition on simulated and world-renowned courses, thanks to the TrackMan golf simulators available there.”

Commemorative ceremonies for that $3.5 million facility will be combined with the 2019 Michigan Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will be held in early June.

Harris said that another springtime celebration will be held at the university’s Racquet and Fitness Center, which serves a public member base along with the student body, with renovations, nearly completed there.

“This is another example of supporting our academic programs and athletic teams, with Professional Tennis Management and men’s and women’s tennis frequently on site,” Harris said. “The center stays busy with an active community tennis program playing indoors and outdoors on a variety of surfaces, while we also support the growing sport of pickleball.”

Upgrades to the Racquet and Fitness Center include improvements for the men’s and women’s locker rooms, refurbishing coverings above the indoor courts, new furniture and a renovation to the pro shop.

“With students, faculty and staff among our customers, along with public play, we hope to schedule and offer an open house at the center,” Harris said. “We are happy to be completing renovation work and very pleased to show it all off.”

Other services where the community comes together with students and those on campus include the Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Copy Center and Early Learning Center.

“The majority of youngsters who attend our Early Learning Center are the children of Ferris students, while 20 percent are a son or daughter of a faculty or staff member, and around 16 percent are children of area residents,” Harris said. “It is a valuable resource for those who work and study at the university and provides an opportunity to partner with the College of Education’s Early Child Development Program.

“When we provide the means for alumni and friends of Ferris to get their Bulldog gear or have their printing projects done, that supports the university’s mission both for our students, and the West Michigan community.”

PHOTO CAPTION: Gheretta Harris is the Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Enterprises at Ferris State University.

John Smith is the communications specialist in the News Services and Social Media department of University Advancement and Marketing.

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