Winter semester graduates will be honored at ceremony, celebration

photo of Cordell Zachery and his mother, Alena Zachery-Ross, both in academic regalia
Cordell Zachery and his mother, Alena Zachery-Ross, are pictured on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Both earned GVSU bachelor's degrees; Cordell will soon earn a master's degree from GVSU and Alena will earn a doctoral degree from MSU.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

More than 3,030 students have qualified to participate in Grand Valley's Winter Semester Commencement ceremony.

A virtual commencement ceremony will be live-streamed on Friday, April 30, at 7 p.m. on Grand Valley's Facebook and YouTube channels. President Philomena V. Mantella and Provost Maria C. Cimitile will address graduates and confer degrees. The deans of each academic college will give remarks and a list of graduates will be featured.

For the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person celebration will be held Saturday, May 1, in the Fieldhouse Arena. The Laker Graduation Celebration will run from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., with graduates processing throughout the day, according to their assigned times. More information is online at

Cordell Zachery and his mother, Alena Zachery-Ross, have a lot to celebrate. Cordell will earn a master's degree in communications; he earned a bachelor's degree in advertising/public relations from Grand Valley in 2016. Alena will earn a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Michigan State University; she earned a bachelor's degree in education from Grand Valley in 1995.

Now the superintendent for Ypsilanti Community Schools (after serving in top posts at Muskegon Heights and Okemos school districts), Alena is an active Laker, serving on the Alumni Association Board of Directors for two terms and as a current Alumni Ambassador. 

Alena said Grand Valley gave her a solid foundation to learn how to be an effective and impactful teacher and school administrator. "I am truly grateful for my experience at GVSU," she said. "It's one of the few in the state that offers special education endorsements in both emotional and cognitive impairments."

Cordell joked that he almost didn't attend Grand Valley because it was the college choice of most of his family. "I thought I wanted to be different and go somewhere else, but then I saw the campus and I was hooked," he said. 

While at Grand Valley, Cordell had an internship at Steelcase Inc.; after graduation, he was hired as a diversity recruitment specialist for the company.

"My capstone presentation tied to my current work. I created a diversity guide book for the corporation that we're now using," he said. "I really appreciate my employers allowing me flexibility to get to classes when they were in-person and the time necessary to complete a master's degree."