Agreement with HBCU creates pathway for students, helps diversify area workforce

four people in masks seated at tables in front of sign at Fort Valley State University.
From left are Paul Plotkowski, B. Donta Truss, FVSU's President Paul A. Jones and Provost T. Ramon Stuart.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

Leaders at Grand Valley signed an agreement with an Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in Georgia that will support students in a master's degree program in engineering/computing and help diversify the talent pipeline for West Michigan employers.

Representatives from GVSU and Fort Valley State University met April 8 to finalize the agreement that creates a pathway for FVSU students to earn a bachelor’s degree from FVSU combined with a master's degree in engineering or computer science at GVSU in as little as five years.

President Philomena V. Mantella said this is the first of what will be similar collaborative agreements with HBCUs, an initiative that broadens Grand Valley's student population and responds to industry needs for a diverse workforce.

"This agreement allows Grand Valley to build on the successes of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing and offer a rigorous advanced degree curriculum to FVSU students in addition to the resources that will enable them to succeed, graduate and find jobs," Mantella said.

headshots of three people: President Mantella, Donta Truss and Paul Plotkowski in one photo
From left are President Philomena V. Mantella, B. Donta Truss and Paul Plotkowski.
Image Credit: University Communications

FVSU President Paul A. Jones said: “This collaboration will allow our students to benefit from the best strengths of both universities — receiving a solid foundation in science and technology and exposure to specialized courses, research and connections. We are immensely proud and excited to partner with GVSU in this opportunity to further our long-standing commitment of preparing students for successful careers in STEM.” 

B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Management and Educational Outreach, has a goal to establish partnerships with more HBCUs and said he is a strong believer in these institutions. Truss, who worked for FVSU before joining GVSU, said this agreement will create a pipeline for student success between two great institutions and provide even more options and opportunities for the students who will be served.

 "The students coming from an HBCU to Grand Valley State University will continue to succeed and help contribute to the diverse culture on our campus," Truss said. 

GVSU/FVSU agreement:

Beginning as soon as the Fall 2021 semester, FVSU students can earn GVSU master's degrees in various engineering disciplines, computer science, cybersecurity, or data science and analytics.

Paul Plotkowski, dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, said this agreement is an extension of the college's internal combined degree programs and offers FVSU students support and resources to help them achieve success.

"HBCUs offer students a supportive environment to begin their college career," Plotkowski said. "Many provide a strong foundation in science, mathematics, computing and engineering courses, but few offer undergraduate degree programs in engineering or computing. We are pleased to work with a great partner in FVSU to offer this program to students."

FVSU students will have access to scholarship and financial support, student support and retention services, Michigan in-state tuition rates, and opportunities to visit GVSU before enrolling.