Mantella says GVSU is positioned well for the future; update given on plan for racial equity and inclusion
Grand Valley is stronger and positioned well for the future after facing challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Philomena V. Mantella said during an April 30 virtual Board of Trustees meeting.
“There has been exceptional work to bring a higher level of admits to Grand Valley,” said Mantella, “and we expect to welcome a higher enrolling class in the fall.”
Mantella said an essential element in getting back to “more normal” operations is vaccination.
“We need all of our students, all of our faculty and all of our staff to get their vaccines so we can come back together and have an experience renewed and energized and safe,” she said.
The president said one of the most important efforts underway at the university is a plan for equity and racial justice. In response to the killing of George Floyd last summer, Mantella issued a 15-point charge for racial equity and inclusion.
Jesse Bernal, chief of staff to the president and vice president for Inclusion and Equity, is leading the initiative. He said while Grand Valley has a longstanding and ongoing strategic plan for inclusion and equity, efforts over the past 11 months have focused on a better understanding of and responding to the experiences of GVSU’s Black and African American community members.
Key commitment areas include access, success and equity; inclusive campus climate; teaching and learning; and organizational and leadership development.
Bernal said just a few accomplishments to date include the development of an enrollment task force, the establishment of a racial equity scholarship, the hiring of an ombuds officer, a general education curriculum review and a universal eLearning module for employees.
Goals include: increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of incoming students, eradicating retention and graduation rate gaps by race and ethnicity, increasing undergraduates enrolling from Grand Rapids and Detroit schools, increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of new employees, and eradicating any disparities in promotion or salary for employees by demographic variables.
Keri Becker, director of Athletics, said student athletes and staff convened the Athletic Advisory Council on Racial Equity.
She said about 60 percent of student athletes responded to a survey about inclusiveness. “A survey was launched asking our student athletes if our teams and locker rooms are inclusive,” said Becker.
Student athletes also devised a “SEA” of change: support and elevate the voice of student athletes and staff of color, educate and raise awareness around racism, and activate change.
Bernal said a campus climate survey is scheduled for fall; he said all of these efforts will help realize positive change and impacts for all underrepresented communities.
More information can be found at www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/charge.
In other board action/discussion:
- Newly appointed trustees Mikyia Aaron and Noreen Myers were welcomed to their first board meeting.
- Mychal Coleman was introduced as associate vice president of Human Resources. Coleman previously served as vice president of Human Resources at the University of the Bahamas. He begins at Grand Valley May 1.
- Karen Loth, vice president for University Development, and Tom Butcher, vice president and university counsel were recognized for their years of service at Grand Valley. Loth was named vice president emeritus for her 20 years of service. Butcher was named vice president emeritus for his 38 years of service. They are both retiring June 19.
- The board approved the reauthorization of five charter schools, and the appointment or reappointment of charter school board members. The board also approved a learning pod school location for Michigan Preparatory Virtual School and a name change to PrepNet Virtual Academy (Statewide Cyber).