Mantella: GVSU in position to be flagship for future of education

Grand Valley is poised to be a flagship in the future of education as the university community champions an atmosphere of growth in an age of opportunity, President Philomena V. Mantella said during her University Address August 22.

The event in the DeVos Center Courtyard on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus included several speakers, all of whom talked about the excitement and opportunity of a new academic year. Another common theme was a celebration of the growth Grand Valley is seeing this year with the largest, most diverse incoming class in GVSU history.

Noting the recent collective, nationwide call for higher education to better adjust to seismic changes in learning, working and other aspects of life while skillfully anticipating tomorrow's needs, Mantella said GVSU possesses the resilience and adaptability to lead the way.

A person standing at a podium with the GVSU logo gestures with both hands while speaking. The person is holding eyeglasses in the left hand.
President Philomena V. Mantella gives remarks during the University Address.

"Realize through your work, every day, we are not just building a new chapter for GVSU," Mantella said. "We are collectively writing the narrative of what public higher education should be – a narrative that prizes progress, collaboration and adaptability; a narrative that foregrounds inclusivity, diversity and equity; a narrative inspired toward creating a better tomorrow for our university, the community and the world around us."

Those universities often considered to be flagship higher education institutions not only serve only a sliver of the college population, but also have failed to meaningfully increase opportunities for people of color, adult learners and others who have been left behind, Mantella said. 

Grand Valley is in a position to boldly forge ahead in the uncharted waters of higher education, she said, guided by principles such as interconnectedness and discovery while strengthening the focus to fulfill its mission for those who have entrusted the university with their education.

"At GVSU, we fully grasp the vast potential that lies within each individual, and we acknowledge the pressing need to ensure that opportunities are readily and equitably available to all," Mantella said. "With unwavering curiosity as our compass, we strive to nurture and cultivate an environment where ideas are cherished, shared, and amplified."

A person standing at a podium talks to an audience.
A person standing at a podium smiles while giving a speech.
Felix Ngassa, chair of the University Academic Senate, left, and Fatma Mili, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, also addressed the audience.

In other remarks by university leaders, Fatma Mili, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, expressed gratitude for the warm welcome from the university community during her first year at GVSU. 

Mili focused her remarks on GVSU's growth, particularly against the backdrop of the struggles in higher education that have dominated headlines. She praised Mantella, university leaders and faculty and staff members for the efforts to make Grand Valley "the go-to destination for a quality, inclusive education.”

"This is also a reminder for us not to take our growth lightly and not to take our growth for granted," Mili said. "At a time when the demographics are changing, students’ expectations are changing, Michigan’s economy is changing, and the climate (meteorological, political and social) is changing, having a clear vision for the future and a built-in agility and adaptability are key."

Felix Ngassa, chair of the University Academic Senate, said that recent challenges across the country to the principles of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mean Lakers must remain steadfast in upholding these values that are central to the university and clearly articulated in the Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan.

"As faculty, staff and administrators, we have a life-changing responsibility that we hold for students (learners) and our community," Ngassa said. "And I believe we take that responsibility very seriously. Collectively, we have a role to play in nurturing the transformation of our students. Our students are counting on us to help them grow and reach their potential."

Daniel Vainner, AP Committee chair, referenced a term he heard from a peer that captures the excitement of the beginning of the semester for those who have devoted their careers to higher education: scholarly fire.

"We're excited to see growth in student populations this year," Vainner said. "What we have here at Grand Valley is really special. Let's be sure to share that."

The 2023 GVSU University Address