Message from Vice President Bernal

September 9, 2016

As the energy and bustle returns to campus, ushering in the start of another academic year, I am reminded of the imperative nature of Grand Valley’s ongoing efforts to become more equitable and inclusive. A socially just and welcoming campus is essential for both the success and well-being of GVSU’s students, faculty, and staff. It is with this understanding and focus that the Division of Inclusion and Equity enters the second year operating under its 2016-2021 Strategic Plan and Framework for Inclusion and Equity. And, with the addition of four new staff members (see below), the division has undergone significant reorganization.

This academic-year marks the beginning of the first full-year with the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the Women’s Center in the Division of Inclusion and Equity. This is also the inaugural year for Campus Interfaith Resources and our Social Justice Education Program, with further developments underway. Together with our existing offices, Disability Support Resources, Title IX, and Affirmative Action (now under the umbrella of the Equity, Planning and Compliance unit), we are working hard to provide resources for and to meet the needs of our diverse campus. 

This semester the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center will launch an LGBT mentoring program to connect students with faculty and staff. The Office of Multicultural Affairs is piloting a Student Success Coach to better serve our students. The Women’s Center is reflecting on its history and preparing for the future as they celebrate their 15th anniversary. Disability Support Resources continues to meet the needs of our community and has already registered a record number of first-year students for resources this semester. We are undergoing changes to our Affirmative Action program, and continue emphasis on our commitment to eliminating sexual violence and sexual- or gender-based harassment at GVSU through our Title IX office along with other campus partners.

At the same time, we recognize that the Division of Inclusion and Equity cannot increase inclusion or improve our campus climate alone. We rely heavily on our partners across the university and count on each of you to be a positive force in our community. GVSU's commitment to inclusion and equity is embedded across all of our areas. Together, we will continue to strive to not only make GVSU the model for diversity and inclusion in higher education in West Michigan, but across the country.


Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D.
Vice President for Inclusion and Equity

Vice President Biography

Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D. is Vice President for the Division of Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley State University. Dr. Bernal joined Grand Valley in February 2015 and oversees the university’s coordinated efforts to advance diversity and campus climate.

Prior to coming to Michigan, Dr. Bernal serves as Director for Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara University in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. In this role, he developed strategies for the recruitment, retention and success of faculty and staff from underrepresented groups and supported efforts to enhance campus climate for faculty, staff, and students. Previously, Dr. Bernal coordinated systemwide diversity and inclusion initiatives for 10 campuses and five medical centers at the University of California as systemwide Diversity Coordinator at the Office of the President. He has served as a consultant on numerous organizational climate assessment projects, LGBT inclusion initiatives, and interfaith community efforts. He also previously worked on educational outreach and academic support programming for underrepresented students as Coordinator of the Educational Outreach Program at the UC’s most diverse campus in Merced, Program Manager for pre-college and first-year summer transition programs at UC Santa Barbara, and Coordinator for a Santa Barbara Public Schools educational outreach program serving low-income 3rd and 4th graders.

While a graduate student at UCSB, Dr. Bernal was appointed to the University of California Board of Regents as student Regent and advocated for a range of statewide policies and programs to support California’s diverse student populations, particularly raising the profile of underrepresented communities such as LGBT students, undocumented students, veterans, and students of color. As Regent, he chaired the Student Life and Alumni Affairs Committee and co-chaired the Access and Affordability Committee of the University of California’s Commission on the Future.

He has served on the California Intersegmental Coordinating Committee – a governor-appointed higher education oversight committee; the California Higher Education Campus Climate Advisory Council; and the University of California LGBT Task Force.  He currently volunteers for the LGBT youth support program, the Trevor Project. In Grand Rapids, Dr. Bernal serves on the Leadership Advisory Board of the Committee to Honor Cesar E. Chavez, the Board of Directors of Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, and is a member of the Class of 2016 of Leadership Grand Rapids.

On a national level, Dr. Bernal has been active in National Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE), National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), American Education Research Association (AERA), and the National Conference on LGBT Equality.

Dr. Bernal received his Ph.D. in Cultural Perspectives in Education from UC Santa Barbara. His research has focused on education policy and law, equity and diversity in higher education, campus climate assessments, social justice education, critical race theory, and student engagement and development theories. His current active research focuses on inclusive hiring practices for faculty and staff in higher education and campus climate for Latino and LGBT undergraduates. Dr. Bernal received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Westmont College (Santa Barbara).

Page last modified September 23, 2017