Top Photo by Valerie Hendrickson

Convocation speakers encourage students to find their communities, begin strong journeys

New and returning students were welcomed to the 2021-2022 academic year by Convocation speakers who also lent advice, gave messages of support and asked questions.

President Philomena V. Mantella said each person gathered in the Fieldhouse August 27 should ask themselves, "Why am I here?" 

"It’s an important question and the difference between walking through your life seeking versus knowing," Mantella said. "Knowing is great but seeking is even better because it’s continuous. The answer will inevitably be different for each of us, varied and deeply personal."

While the answers differ, Mantella said universal truths guide each person's journey, including how community and curiosity impact a person's path. 

"Figure out and live your mission but recognize you live in relation to others. Look to our faculty and staff who are your guides on your journey," Mantella said.

President Mantella in academic regalia gestures toward the audience from a podium
President Philomena V. Mantella shared a message with students about how curiosity and community impact one's journey.
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

It was the first in-person Convocation ceremony held on campus since 2019. Chris Plouff, interim provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, told the audience Grand Valley is strongest when its community members can be together in person.

Plouff advised students to connect with faculty. "As scholar-teachers they continually advance their knowledge and abilities through their research and creative activity," he said. "They will share this with you in their teaching and invite you to join them in their ongoing learning process."

man in academic regalia gestures toward audience, others on platform also in regalia; GVSU banner hangs down
Chris Plouff, interim provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, tells the audience the campus is strongest when its members can be together in person.
Amanda Pitts
man at podium in academic regalia and wearing face mask
Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of University Academic Senate, shares strategies of how to be a successful student.
Valerie Hendrickson

Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of University Academic Senate, shared strategies on how to be a successful student and encouraged new students to approach the academic year with open minds and dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion principles — values included within the Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan. 

"I hope you will all join the Reach Higher 2025 efforts as we craft a bold strategic plan to make our university, and our society, a place where everyone feels welcomed, valued and respected, as they pursue their own journeys toward excellence," he said.

Six new and returning students gave short testimonies about what being a Laker for a Lifetime means to them and how new Lakers can support the campus. They were introduced by B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach. Students spoke about attending athletic events, serving others and being innovative.

B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, on platform in academic regalia and line of students in front of screen with GVSU bursting out
B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, introduces students who discussed being a Laker for a Lifetime.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
woman in graduation gown stands at podium
Student Senate President Autumn Mueller welcomes students during the Convocation ceremony August 27 in the Fieldhouse.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
woman in academic regalia wearing face mask at podium
Jamie Allen, who earned two Grand Valley degrees, has a 'heart-to-heart' conversation with students in the Fieldhouse.
Valerie Hendrickson

Student Senate President Autumn Mueller congratulated first-year students for their resilience and flexibility in navigating remote learning as high school seniors. Mueller encouraged students to get involved in a student organization, which helps build community.

"I found many friendships and my community at this institution," Mueller said. "It will become a place for you to call home."

Jamie Allen, who earned two Grand Valley degrees (master's degree in accounting and a bachelor's degree in business administration), welcomed the class of 2025 on behalf of all Laker alumni. Allen is a senior associate at the Siegfried Group, a national CPA firm.

Allen said her GVSU degrees guided her career but her educational experiences shaped her journey to serve her community in multiple ways. Allen said she wanted to have a "heart-to-heart" talk with students about how being a GVSU graduate will serve them over the course of their lives.