President Mantella holds first in a series of virtual Laker town hall meetings

Photo of President Philomena V. Mantella
President Philomena V. Mantella led a virtual town hall meeting April 6 to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the university.
Image Credit: Valerie Wojciechowski

President Philomena V. Mantella led a virtual town hall meeting April 6 to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the university.

The meeting was the first of a series of virtual town hall meetings scheduled to connect with students, faculty, staff members and parents. The April 6 session was for staff members; more than 280 joined by phone or computer.

At the start of the meeting, Mantella said she wished the group could meet in person, but said it was good to be together virtually.

"I want to start by saying thank you," said Mantella. "I am thankful for the strength of the Grand Valley community in making sure that learning continues and that our students stay safe. I am grateful and moved by how people are lifting each other up as we venture through the unknown ... I am inspired by your actions."

Mantella said while navigating the challenges brought on by COVID-19, it is important to focus on university values, being decisive and acting together will the full force of the university community.

"We are leading by our values — being student centered and offering high-quality education," she said. "We must act together, be creative and share ideas that will help us now and down the road."

Mantella and other university leaders answered questions submitted ahead of time as well as those submitted during the meeting. Questions centered on university finances, student support, remote learning and recruitment and enrollment. Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity and executive associate for Presidential Initiatives, served as moderator.

Greg Sanial, vice president for Finance and Administration, said the university is financially strong. He said Grand Valley is planning for a robust fall semester and he has a team looking into whether the university will benefit from the federal stimulus package.

Provost Maria Cimitile said students are receiving academic support through faculty members and the Student Academic Success Center. Cimitile highlighted greater latitude for choosing the credit/no credit option at the end of the semester, and said her office is working through how to handle required internships, clinical rotations and co-ops.

Lynn "Chick" Blue, vice president for Enrollment Development, said emergency funds are being used to help students needing financial aid. She also said recruitment and retention efforts are ongoing. Give to the Student Support Fund here.

"We are conducting remote advising, and virtual orientations and campus tours," said Blue. "We will also strengthen the Transitions schedule in the fall."

Mantella said through the COVID-19 crisis, she has been reflecting on her vision and five commitments for the university.

"Most of what we've identified as essential for Grand Valley is now even more essential," said Mantella. "The only thing that has changed are the stakes. The need for talent and lifelong learning is now more pressing. It will take greater focus, creativity and agility." 

To a register for a town hall meeting, visit