Division News & Statements

Message from President Mantella Commemorating 2023 MLK Holiday

January 13, 2023

On Monday, January 16, Grand Valley joins the nation in commemorating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This is the second year the day is an official GVSU holiday, and the university will close. I encourage all students, faculty and staff to take the opportunity to join me in making the day one of reflection and learning. There are many events throughout the week.

We have chosen the theme, "Race and Democracy," for this important week. Dr. King strongly believed in the importance of civic engagement. He said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." He argued that it is the responsibility of citizens to become actively involved in the political process and to make their voices heard to create a better society. The strength and power of our engagement in the democratic process are just as relevant and important today. I believe we must all raise our voices to create positive change "about things that matter."

Like many of you, I have been following what has been happening right here in West Michigan. I am concerned about the recent efforts to dismantle structures and supports for equity and inclusion in Ottawa County. Inclusion is critical to the economic and societal well-being of the region, and we will engage in discussions with local leaders and others to share this belief. We expect our campus community, and the people we serve, to be able to thrive in a diverse and inclusive environment.

At Grand Valley, we hold ourselves to this expectation and strive to be a model for inclusion and equity, while improving access in higher education. More will be shared soon about the work of the Inclusion and Equity Activation and Accountability Team (AALT), which I charged in 2020 with advancing the recommendations of the Network of Advisors for Racial Equity.

You will begin to see more of this work. Look for:

  • Equity reviews of the recruitment and hiring process in divisions and colleges.
  • Enhancements to employee onboarding curriculum, with inclusion and equity components thoroughly embedded.
  • A revamping of the employee exit interview to ensure insights are collected and trends are reviewed and acted upon.
  • An inclusive and equity-focused staff mentorship program for internal career development.
  • Appointment of highly trained, experienced senior Inclusion Advocates to support high-profile searches. Part of their responsibility will be to monitor the pool of candidates to ensure it reflects market diversity availability and that significant actions have been taken to produce an inclusive search.
  • Mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training for all appointing officers, those who supervise or manage employees, and all members of search committees. An employee learning map will be shared through the Inclusion and Equity Institute soon.
  • Regular employee climate pulse surveys to provide more timely and ongoing insights.
  • All divisions now have designated liaisons and advisors working with the Division of Inclusion and Equity to advance actions and ensure accountability through the AALT.

With Reach Higher 2025, we commit to building a culture of educational equity. Our commitments are more than words. They are to be lived in our daily work and actions. We have undertaken many actions, including the ones above, to strengthen our approach and ensure progress. All employees, including the Senior Leadership Team, will be held accountable for four equity-related focal point indicators that will be measured and monitored: student diversity, employee diversity, sense of belonging, and closing student outcome gaps. The measures we use to track our progress offer transparency and provide opportunities to make adjustments to ensure we meet our commitments.

Dr. King often spoke about the need for individuals and society to take action to address social injustices. In his speech "I have a Dream" he said, "the time is always right to do what is right." For Grand Valley, that time is now. We will continue to update the university community on actions being led by AALT and ask that each of you lean into every opportunity available to continue to build a Grand Valley where all our students, faculty, and staff thrive.


Philomena V. Mantella, President

Share this news story

View More Division News & Statements

Page last modified January 13, 2023