GVSU among nine institutions in country honored for supplier diversity programs

Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle, vendor relations manager for Procurement Services, stands in front of the GV in the Student Services Building.
Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle, vendor relations manager for Procurement Services, has led efforts to build a robust supplier diversity program.
Image credit - courtesy photo

Grand Valley was among nine colleges and universities to be recognized nationally for taking proactive steps to support minority-owned businesses through its supplier diversity program.

"Insight Into Diversity Magazine," the nation's oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education, presented its Jesse L. Moore Supplier Diversity Award to Grand Valley, stating the university was selected based on its efforts to engage and retain suppliers from underrepresented groups.

The other eight institutions to receive the award are Clemson University, Drexel University, Illinois Public Higher Education Cooperative at the University of Illinois, Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City (Mo.), Miami University, University of Connecticut, University of Houston and University of South Florida.

Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle, vendor relations manager for Procurement Services, said supplier diversity plays a key role in the university's overall commitment to inclusion and equity. 

"This is a university commitment and it takes all of us to make sure it happens," Rhodes-Sorrelle said. "It might take more planning to cast a wider net of suppliers, but new vendors bring in new ideas and when students see more diversity represented on campus, that's a win for everyone."

Rhodes-Sorrelle said Grand Valley's goal is to increase participation with women- or minority-owned businesses through expanding business opportunities when requesting quotes, bids or formal proposals. 

The amount of university money spent with diverse suppliers rose slightly in 2020 from 2019. In 2020, the total supplier spend was $106.3 million and 6.8 percent went to diverse suppliers, up from 6 percent in 2019.

Kim Patrick, director of Procurement Services, said cultivating a robust supplier diversity program makes good business sense and adds value to a region's economy. 

"Diverse businesses typically face barriers such as access to capital and networking opportunities, and effective supplier diversity strategies can alleviate these pain points," Patrick said. "Minority-owned businesses have to do it faster, cheaper and more efficiently to survive in the marketplace."

Rhodes-Sorrelle, now in her 31st year at Grand Valley, works in the community, educating vendors on how to establish relationships with the university. She also educates campus departments on identifying diverse suppliers and creating awareness of the value of inclusive purchasing. 

"There is value in supporting our local and regional business owners. GVSU can have an effect on our local and regional economies," she said.

Rhodes-Sorrelle has long been active in state and national procurement associations. In January, she received an award from the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council for showing commitment to furthering business relationships between major corporations and minority-owned firms. She was also named a recent Corp! Magazine Most Valuable Professional.

On campus, she is a member of President Philomena V. Mantella's Network of Advisors, guiding a subgroup on supplier and vendor diversity.

"I enjoy having a positive effect on campus cultural change," Rhodes-Sorrelle said. "I enjoy actively participating in what I’m calling Grand Valley’s commitment to the three Cs: Campus, Cultural, Change."


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