Mantella presents feedback from fall semester Grand Huddles

President Mantella in front of crowded room with microphone, hands of audience members in the air.
President Philomena V. Mantella presents feedback from the fall semester Grand Huddle meetings December 4 in the Kirkhof Center.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski
man with microphone in crowded room asking question
Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of University Academic Senate, facilitates a question during the presentation.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski
man sitting in audience with microphone
Paul Leidig, professor and director of computing and information systems, participates during the Grand Gathering No. 1 December 4 in the Kirkhof Center.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski

Sixteen huddles, more than 900 participants, 3,200 comments captured.

President Philomena V. Mantella presented feedback from the Grand Huddle series December 4 in the Kirkhof Center before an audience of about 200 participants — students, faculty and staff members. The fall semester huddles, facilitated meetings with engaged conversations, began in late September and concluded December 3.

She admitted it was somewhat challenging to capture engagements from the sessions and move from information gathering to strategic thinking to an action plan. Mantella also cautioned that planning is not complete.

"To finish this plan is to lay the foundation, refine priorities and shape them for the future," Mantella said. "A plan is priorities. It's the discipline that forces us to make choices."

The presentation Mantella used will be added online at

Comments from Grand Huddles were largely drawn from two questions: What is Grand Valley's essence and what are its opportunities for the future. Mantella said she learned more about the university's culture from listening to participants discuss its essence.

"I was touched by faculty conversations about why they work at a student-centered university. I didn't understand until I got here how central that is — what a gift," she said.

Issues and comments focused on inclusion and diversity were discussed as identified opportunities. Mantella said a huddle with faculty and staff members of color brought out this common theme. "People from underrepresented groups feel we have more work to do, and they're right," she said.

Mantella said her five commitments to Grand Valley first announced during the November 15 investiture ceremony were enhanced by comments received from the huddles.

The five commitments are to build a new liberal education that expands experiential learning and entrepreneurial opportunities for all students; build on the reciprocity of learning; expand adult learning with dedicated support for completion; create a Talent Epicenter; and enhance the Laker Lifetime Learning Commitment to create ongoing connections between alumni and the university.

She admitted growth and change will be difficult with limited resources such as stagnant, or potentially decreased, state funding.

"We have to separate ourselves around innovation. Grand Valley has demonstrated its capacity to innovate and do more with less," she said. "We need to separate ourselves by finding new kinds of funding sources."

The presentation was the first of many. Other opportunities for the campus community to engage in the Reach Higher Together initiative include Fireside Chats with thought leaders, and a student-driven design thinking session in the winter semester. 

Learn more about Reach Higher Together online.