Leaders from GVSU sign articulation agreement with North Carolina HBCU

Agreement offers JCSU students opportunities to earn master's degrees at GVSU

Leaders at Grand Valley State University and Johnson C. Smith University signed an agreement April 12 that provides pathways for North Carolina students to earn master's degrees at Grand Valley in engineering or athletic training.

JCSU is the fifth Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to join the HBCU/Hispanic Serving Institution Consortium. The consortium advances Grand Valley's goals of increasing educational access and empowering learners. JCSU is a professional liberal arts college in Charlotte, North Carolina.

four people standing in front of John C. Smith University backdrop
From left to right are GVSU Vice President B. Donta Truss; Melita Mitchell, JCSU associate vice president of Academic Affairs; LuWanna Williams, coordinator, HBCU/HSI Pipeline Consortium; and JCSU President Clarence Armbrister.
Image credit - courtesy of JCSU

GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella said students from JCSU will enrich Grand Valley's campus and add strong and diverse talent to the West Michigan workforce.

"Partnerships like this are how higher education works best. We are collaborating, not competing, with one another and share a common goal: to help students succeed," Mantella said. "I'm very grateful to the teams who worked on this agreement and am excited to partner with Johnson C. Smith University."

JCSU offers bachelor's degree programs in computer engineering, mathematics and public health, in addition to a minor in sports medicine. The agreement provides opportunities for qualified students to earn GVSU master's degrees in engineering or athletic training, beginning in the Fall 2023 semester.

JCSU President Clarence Armbrister said: “For 156 years, Johnson C. Smith University has been a leader in providing education to underserved communities. We are grateful that we aren’t doing it alone. We want to make sure our students have a seamless pathway when they leave JCSU, and our announcement today is that this agreement will provide a guided pathway for JCSU and GVSU."

composite photo of President Mantella, left, and Paul Plotkowski
President Philomena V. Mantella and Paul Plotkowski, dean of Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, attended the signing and gave remarks virtually.
Image credit - University Communications

JCSU students will receive in-state tuition rates, financial aid and many other GVSU resources to support their journey, including co-op and internship experiences at West Michigan employers. 

B. Donta Truss, GVSU vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, said JCSU students will be set up for success because of the support systems built into the consortium pipeline program. Truss added that the program will hit a milestone in April when the first student from an HBCU will earn a GVSU master's degree in cell and molecular biology.

"We know that JCSU has extremely talented students," Truss said. "Through our combined efforts we want to connect these students to West Michigan business and industry leaders who are very much interested in diversifying their fields." 

Paul Plotkowski, dean of GVSU's Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, said that college was founded four decades ago at the request of West Michigan industry leaders who wanted to identify local talent to meet the needs of the area.

"I'm so pleased to support students from HBCUs who come to Grand Valley and to connect them with industry, which begins early in their academic careers," Plotkowski said.

The connection between the two institutions was a JCSU alumnus who lives in Grand Rapids. Lorenzo Bradshaw, principal of Brookwood Elementary in Kentwood, heard about the HBCU/Hispanic Serving Institution Consortium and sent information to his connections at the North Carolina university.


Sign up and receive the latest Grand Valley headlines delivered to your email inbox each morning.