President Mantella, CEOs discuss leadership in era of disruption
President Philomena V. Mantella and three CEOs from West Michigan businesses discussed their strategies on leading their institutions through the post-COVID era during a March 27 forum hosted by the Economic Club of Grand Rapids at the JW Marriott.
Terry Barclay, president and CEO of Inforum; Sara Armbruster, president and CEO of Steelcase; and Ana Ramirez-Saenz, CEO and founder of La Fuente Consulting joined Mantella on the panel.
Barclay, serving as moderator to the discussion, asked Mantella how the pandemic has elevated questions surrounding higher education and its relevance for today’s students. Mantella said the challenge should not be feared, but embraced.
“I welcome the challenge that happens when we are in a period of disruption,” Mantella said. “We’ve got to find a way to welcome the question and confront it, and to have uncertainty be somewhat joyous.
“Trying to take the fear out of the moment and put inspiration in the moment is really important.”
Barclay asked Mantella about higher education’s role in addressing the talent gap and collaborating with businesses and entrepreneurs. Mantella said higher education needs to be receptive to adapting to the evolving needs of the modern workplace.
“Higher education should be fundamental to addressing the talent gap,” said Mantella. “What’s really important is that higher education has to be open to collaborating with businesses on the development of curriculum, and how (students’) competencies are best built.”
The panel agreed that the current uncertainty surrounding the economic landscape following COVID-19 is a terrific opportunity for growth and exploration. Mantella pointed to GVSU’s future via its Reach Higher 2025 initiative, focusing on empowering students with their education, promoting a lifetime of learning and embracing a culture of educational equity.
“We wanted our development strategy to be simple and profound,” Mantella said. “We’ve been very intentional with the Grand Valley Pledge, the Veterans Promise. We did a lot of work to say to students, ‘We will be here and support you in the way you need to be supported.’”