President Mantella poses with a group of students for a selfie at the Grand Valley tailgate. Students wear blue laker gear and Mantella wears a baseball cap and sunglasses.

The President's Page

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The Fall semester has been full of energy, hope and promise. We welcomed the most diverse class in university history and had an increase in new full-time first-year, transfer and graduate students. Much has changed because of the global pandemic, but the human spirit remains vibrant and hopeful! Resilience and optimism are just a couple of the beautiful aspects of life on campus. 

As we move through this academic year with some challenges behind us, we realize our life is a series of challenges but also opportunities. It is our mindset that determines if we overcome the challenges, grow and embrace enormous opportunities in the process. Overcoming is a part of “always becoming,” a phrase embraced by my predecessors at the university, that calls us to test ourselves, embrace new ideas and feed our curiosity. And it is the precise environment to encourage thought-provoking conversations held in the civil manner we expect from our community and long for in our public discourse.  

To that end, I am pleased to share that Grand Valley has begun a yearlong series of programs, “Talking Together: Strengthening our Communities through Conversation,” designed to encourage a culture of civil conversation. The four campus partners leading the programming are the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies and WGVU Public Media. The initiative is co-sponsored by the Division of Inclusion and Equity/Network of Advisors for Racial Equity and the Division of Student Affairs. Each month during the academic year, the university is hosting an event for the campus community, as well as the larger community, to engage in conversation across differences in perspectives, opinions and life experiences.

Lisa Perhamus, director of the Center for Civil Discourse and associate professor of educational foundations, said, “People will be invited and supported to talk with one another across differences, and through conversation, recognize each other’s humanity.” When we see people as individuals and presume goodwill, important growth and learning can take place. I saw this especially with our students who participated in fall events. Our intent is for them, and for all of us, to be better ambassadors of civil conversations. We are a vital part of putting civility firmly back in the fabric of our society. The series continues January through April, with April’s event being virtual. 

Talking Together

We can talk together. We can learn together. We can become together. We need to remember these ideas when we gather to discuss our challenges, individually and collectively, with people who just might think differently than we do or have different lived experiences. Let’s talk together with curiosity, deep interest and respect as we explore and forge our collective future.

Philomena V. Mantella's signature

Philomena V. Mantella

President, Grand Valley State University

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