GVSU sets agenda for new strategic plan, passes budget

Aerial view of Allendale Campus.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees gave the go-ahead to a path toward the future of the university at its November 6, 2020, virtual board meeting.

President Philomena V. Mantella outlined the Reach Higher 2025 strategy development process and timeline. 

Mantella told trustees the current plan will expire on schedule next year, and after input and development, the new plan should be set for approval in November 2021. She said she has an expansive vision for Grand Valley and is counting on the talent and contributions of the campus community.

"We are examining the stressors and challenges coming with the pandemic, racial unrest and political polarization, and seeing them as opportunities to deepen our relevance and impact," Mantella said. "We have a vision for Grand Valley that builds upon what is good and responds to shifting conditions and strategic opportunities. The time is right. We can be on the forefront of the evolving educational system that shouldn't feel like a system at all — because it's personal to students' needs and passions."

Mantella addressed access and equity, and the plan for enrollment growth. A steering committee for the developing plan will be co-chaired by Mark Schaub, dean of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies; Janet Winter, associate dean of the Kirkhof College of Nursing; and Tara Bivens, benefits manager. There are also representatives from faculty, staff and student leadership groups on the committee. There will be opportunities for input from internal and external community members during the planning period.

Mantella described 2020 as an unusually difficult year.

"If we look deeply, past the pain, we will see opportunities to learn, grow, improve, value people and celebrate increased participation in our democracy," she said. "Whatever the outcomes of the federal elections, we must ensure our university is a model for what it means to come together as a community, supporting one another, and caring for each other." 

The trustees also approved the FY 2021 budget that represents an overall decrease of 2 percent from the previous year. The newly passed budget contains a $5.6 million increase in financial aid. Greg Sanial, vice president for Finance and Administration, said the university made targeted reductions in the operational budget so it could increase financial aid and student support services. 

"This budget has been put together with great caution because of the pandemic and the state's precarious budget situation in the coming year," said Sanial. "We are reducing budgets with the exception of support for our students. We're holding onto resources in case COVID-19 puts even more stress on our budget, and in case the state enacts a mid-year reduction."

Customary annual salary increases for faculty and staff were eliminated, and the president and senior leadership returned a percentage of their salaries to the Student Support Fund to offset the unexpected financial strains COVID-19 put on students and families.

During discussion about the budget reduction measures the university has taken, Trustee Mary Kramer spoke about the faculty's efforts to help the university and its students by teaching more sections to decrease class size during COVID. 

"I want to publicly thank the faculty for increasing their work load during this time," said Kramer. "They showed their flexibility and dedication to students and illustrated the Grand Valley culture of stepping up when the need arises."

Several trustees echoed her comments and thanked the faculty, as well as the entire Grand Valley community.

In other board action/discussion:

  • The board approved a program title change from a B.S. in Physical Education to a B.S. in Health and Physical Education. The change was made to meet requirements by the Michigan Department of Education that all teacher preparation programs must create a combined physical education and health education major.
  • Vice Provost and Dean of Students Loren Rullman reported that with the decreased density required by health guidance, 5,132 students are living on campus, which is a 93 percent occupancy rate. He said even with COVID-19 restrictions, students are finding value in the campus learning environment.
  • Board members thanked trustees Mary Kramer and John Russell for their service. Both were appointed to the board in 2013; their terms expire in 2020, making this their last board meeting.