students seated and standing by a table with a drape that says GVSU Laker Familia, they are all wearing white t-shirts

GVSU again recognized nationally for its commitment to Latino student success

Grand Valley was among 15 national higher education institutions to be recognized for its commitment to Latino student success during a September 30 ceremony.

Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., recertified GVSU's Seal of Excelencia, recognition first earned in 2019 for supporting Latino students and providing tools to help them earn degrees. In 2019, GVSU and eight other institutions earned the inaugural Seal of Excelencia. 

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said the university is pleased to be recertified and proud to be the only predominantly white institution to earn this designation.

"Grand Valley State University is proud to be in the inaugural cohort of institutions to receive the Seal of Excelencia in 2019," Mantella said. "Our recertification means we are fulfilling our promise to our Latino students and their families that GVSU will provide a welcoming community where they can thrive and succeed."

President Mantella stands behind a podium speaking in front of a banner for Excelencia in Education
President Philomena V. Mantella gives remarks at an Excelencia in Education ceremony in Washington, D.C., September 30.
Image credit - courtesy photo

The Seal of Excelencia framework was developed with colleges and universities as a tool for institutional self-assessment. The certification is valid for three years and institutions committed to a journey of transformation to intentionally serve their Latino students may choose to apply.

Jesse Bernal, GVSU vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said the framework provides a roadmap that not only supports Latino students and employees, but all underrepresented students and employees. 

"Focused on the use of disaggregated data, evidence-based practices and culturally responsive leadership, the framework aligns with work long underway at GVSU while encouraging transparency, aspiration and modeling for other communities," Bernal said.

Emilee Vela is a senior studying sociology. A Holland native, Vela grew up in Donna, Texas, and said university resources like Laker Familia helped her make a successful transition from high school to college. Laker Familia programming offers academic, social, cultural and professional activities for students who identify as Latino/Hispanic.

"I came to GVSU not knowing anyone and was scared I may not find friends, a community or somewhere to call home while away," said Vela, who served as a Laker Familia mentor. "Being in Laker Familia changed this for me. I found my support system away from home made up of people from many different paths of life."

Fall 2022 semester enrollment for Latino/Hispanic students new to Grand Valley rose 9 percent compared to 2021.

At the September 30 announcement, Excelencia recognized six institutions that earned the Seal of Excelencia for the first time, and the nine institutions that were recertified. These institutions join 15 other Seal-certified institutions. Combined, the 30 Seal-certified institutions enrolled 13 percent and graduated 14 percent of all Latinos in the U.S., and they are projecting to continue increasing their efforts to lead the nation.


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