Graduate returns to campus, this time as ACE fellow

January 25, 2022 (Volume 45, Number 10)
Article by Michele Coffill

portrait of Mary McConner who is dressed in Laker blue shirt and suit jacket

 ACE fellow Mary McConner, ’08, is the vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Christian Brothers University.

Photo Credit: Amanda Pitts

A Grand Valley graduate has returned to campus for the Winter semester, this time as an American Council of Education fellow.

Mary "MJ" McConner, ’08, is the vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee. As an ACE fellow, she will primarily shadow President Philomena V. Mantella and other senior leaders. 

McConner earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Grand Valley, master's degree in educational leadership from Central Michigan University and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Auburn University. 

When it was time for McConner to select where to do her fellowship, the answer was simple.

"Grand Valley was my first choice," she said. "The university helped shape my career and I want to give back and serve the campus. I've also been an active member of the Alumni Association."

A former Christian Brothers University president nominated McConner, a Detroit native, for the ACE Fellows Program. 

"This is such a good opportunity to learn how other institutions operate and see different leadership styles," she said. "This campus is growing and doing amazing things. I would love to better understand this level of institutional growth."

Mantella said she is pleased McConner is back at GVSU. “I am delighted to host MJ for her semester-long ACE fellowship," Mantella said. "Providing opportunities for leadership development aligns with my personal goals and was the catalyst behind committing to expanding our President’s Council and creating the Presidential Fellows program for our faculty members.”

Jesse Bernal, chief of staff to the president and vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said McConner will work with senior leaders on recommendations from the Network of Advisors, implementation of the Strategic Enrollment Management Plan, and the Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan.

McConner said the fellowship will serve as a guide to her next career steps. "I love DEI work but there are other areas I'm interested in: advancement and fundraising, and enrollment management," she said.

McConner has worked at CBU since 2018, initially serving as director of Multicultural Student Services, which included overseeing international students and the university's study abroad program. She has also participated in leadership programs at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education and University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

Contact McConner via email at [email protected].

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This article was last edited on January 25, 2022 at 10:36 a.m.

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