Message from Chief of Staff & Vice President Bernal

Dear Laker Community,

Your safety and well-being continue to be a priority here at Grand Valley State University. As such, we want you to know that, even in the midst of uncertain times, your community is here to inspire your learning and leadership.

The Division of Inclusion and Equity has adapted its resources to ensure that support and services continue to be available to you. Whether you need guidance to navigate university resources, access to food or other essential needs, or have questions as your wrap up the winter semester and begin the spring/summer term, our team is here.

Importantly, everyone should understand that our commitment to equity and civil rights compliance remains steadfast in all work and learning modalities. Should you have any concerns about sexual and gender-based harassment or other forms of harassment or require accommodations for a disability, you are welcome to reach out to any of your campus partners and support personnel. We will provide information, guidance, and other resources to address your concerns during these challenging times. 

Even though we are physically apart, staying connected is essential. We know the pandemic has affected every aspect of life. We also know it has disproportionately impacted our underrepresented and marginalized communities. For those impacted in anyway, we invite you to join one of our care circles designed to center the unique realities of the current situation for our diverse community members. Contact for more information.

During these times, it’s also important that we strive to engage as a community as often as possible. If you weren’t able to participate in a virtual town hall with President Mantella, I encourage you to consider dropping into a virtual office hour or other engagement opportunities with members of our extended senior leadership team. We would love to hear from you and learn more about how we can support your Laker Effect.

Thank you for your continued strength and care. If you need support or have any questions, please do not hesitate to be in contact.

Be safe and stay connected. 

Very sincerely, 

Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D.
Chief of Staff to the President
Vice President for Inclusion and Equity

Jesse M. Bernal

Vice President Biography

As Chief of Staff to the President and Vice President for Inclusion & Equity, Dr. Jesse M. Bernal, Ph.D., oversees Grand Valley’s State University’s coordinated efforts to advance diversity and campus climate for students, faculty, and staff, including a 13-unit division. The Division of Inclusion and Equity includes oversight of Civil Right compliance functions, including ADA, Title IX, and Affirmative Action, social justice education/training, Disability Support Resources, and the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. He also partners to support Grand Valley's social justice student service centers including the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, Office of Multicultural Affairs, and Campus Interfaith Resources, as well as community engagement and employee relations functions. As Chief of Staff to President Mantella, Dr. Bernal's responsibilities were expanded to support presidential initiatives and engagement, the Employee Ombuds Office, Educational Opportunity and Access Division, including charter schools operations office and the NextEd Accelerator, as well as university strategic planning and innovation.

Prior to coming to Michigan, Dr. Bernal served as Director for Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara University in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. In this role, he developed strategies for the recruitment, retention and success of faculty and staff from underrepresented groups and supported efforts to enhance campus climate for faculty, staff, and students. Previously, Dr. Bernal coordinated systemwide diversity and inclusion initiatives for 10 campuses and five medical centers at the University of California as systemwide Diversity Coordinator at the Office of the President. He has served as a consultant on numerous organizational climate assessment projects, LGBT inclusion initiatives, and interfaith community efforts. He also previously worked in educational outreach and academic support programming for underrepresented students as Coordinator of the Educational Outreach Program at the UC’s most diverse campus in Merced, Program Manager for pre-college and first-year summer transition programs at UC Santa Barbara, and Coordinator for a Santa Barbara Public Schools educational outreach program serving low-income 3rd and 4th graders.

While a graduate student at UCSB, Dr. Bernal was appointed to the University of California Board of Regents as student Regent and advocated for a range of statewide policies and programs to support California’s diverse student populations, particularly raising the profile of underrepresented communities such as LGBT students, undocumented students, veterans, and students of color. As Regent, he chaired the Student Life and Alumni Affairs Committee and co-chaired the Access and Affordability Committee of the University of California’s Commission on the Future.

On a national level, Dr. Bernal has been active in National Association of Chief Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and serves on the Board of Directors, National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE), American Education Research Association (AERA), and the National Conference on LGBT Equality. In 2018, he was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to the Hispanic/Latino Commission of Michigan.

Locally, he serves on the executive committee of the Grand Rapids Cesar Chavez Committee, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Grand Rapids Public Museum (also a Museum Trustee), the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, and Arbor Circle. He also serves on the Varnum, LLC Diversity Council, Talent 2025 Diversity and Inclusion Community of Practice, K-Connect Inclusion and Equity Council, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Fund for Community Good Advisory Committee, Andy Lubbers be nice. Memorial Fund Advisory Board, the Center for Community Leadership Council for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, among other service efforts.

Dr. Bernal received his Ph.D. in Cultural Perspectives in Education from UC Santa Barbara. He has completed executive education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research has focused on education policy and law, equity and diversity in higher education, campus climate assessments, social justice education, critical race theory, and student engagement and development theories and models of diversity in higher education. He is an adjunct faculty member in the GVSU College of Education and regularly teaches organization and administration in higher education and advises master’s students in the College and Student Affairs Leadership program. Dr. Bernal received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Westmont College (Santa Barbara).