GVSU appoints new chief academic officer

headshot of Fatma Mili
Fatma Mili is currently the dean of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Image Credit: courtesy photo

President Philomena V. Mantella announced the appointment of Fatma Mili as the next provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs of the university. Mili is currently the dean of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

Mili was chosen from a national pool of candidates, and she was among three finalists who came to GVSU last month to present to the community and answer questions. She earned her doctorate from the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France. She knows Michigan from her time at Oakland University in the School of Engineering. She then moved to Purdue University as department head of computer information technology, becoming executive director of the TransSTEM Center. She has been at UNC Charlotte since 2017. 

Mili has spent her career broadening participation and equity in education, curricular design, pedagogical innovation and faculty and staff professional development. She has integrated technology into curriculum in all disciplines to better prepare students for rapidly evolving careers in every sector. She said she is excited about the energy and opportunities at Grand Valley.

“I really like the genesis of Grand Valley, being created by the community with a liberal education base,” said Mili. “I am impressed by President Mantella’s vision and how she has made the planning process for the future inclusive. It is not a timid plan, but one that recognizes the challenges higher education is facing. 

"I found faculty members who are aware of the challenges and curious how we will work together to tackle them. There is respect and openness and a healthy shared governance. Higher education is changing, and institutions that will thrive are ones like Grand Valley that are proactive.”

Mantella said she is impressed by Mili’s international experiences, her ability to speak multiple languages and her track record of blazing new trails in education and research, along with her commitment to innovation and diversity.

“Dr. Mili is an educator, scholar and skilled academic leader deeply committed to the profound impact of education,” said Mantella. “She has a clear vision for the integration of professional and liberal education, the underpinnings to our model. Fatma will lead us well as we reach higher, valuing our history and stretching towards our future.”

A campus committee was established in July to guide the search, supported by consultants from Storbeck Search. The 18-member campus committee was composed of student leaders, staff and faculty members. It was co-chaired by Felix Ngassa, professor of chemistry and chair of University Academic Senate, and Paul Stansbie, associate dean of the College of Education and Community Innovation.

Ngassa said that Mili embodies the essence of a chief academic officer.

“She is a great scholar who has extensive experience in research as judged by her impressive list of publications and funded external grants,” Ngassa said. “She is measured, calm, reflective, thoughtful and a strategic systems thinker. More importantly, I admire her humility, willingness to listen and even acknowledge some of her shortcomings. She understands and respects shared governance and articulated this very well by emphasizing the need for trust between the faculty and the Office of the Provost. There is something to be said about a leader who recognizes that no individual can have all the answers, but collectively and working in collaboration, we can have all the answers or get close to having all the answers.”

Stansbie noted that Mili brings a wealth of academic experience that is critical to the university at this time.

“Dr. Mili’s commitment and understanding of the importance of liberal education and how it intersects all disciplines ensures the foundation of our academic identity will remain steadfast,” Stansbie said. “Her experience with adult learners, community engagement, DEI and high-impact learning practices will allow GVSU to continue to be accessible, innovative and proactive in response to the changing environment of higher education. I am grateful for the time and energy invested by the university in the recruitment process. This has truly been a team effort, and we look forward to Dr. Mili’s leadership.”

Mili also noted that she was quite impressed with the campuses’ beauty and the art that is in all of GVSU’s buildings.

“The fact that art is everywhere is quite a loving gesture toward students,” Mili said. “That was a wonderful surprise to me. There is so much pride in the maintenance of the buildings, and it shows respect for everyone who enters.”

Mili will begin her new role in July. She will take over for Interim Provost Chris Plouff, who has been in the position since June.