Partners in Action Against Racism

Our Charge

Grand Valley State University acknowledges the hurt, anger, fear, and distrust that many of our Black faculty, staff, students, and administrators must feel following the reprehensible killing of George Floyd and the ongoing racial and social injustice that exists in our society.

We also acknowledge that the well-being of our entire community rests on fulfilling the elemental promise that every member of our campus community is welcomed, supported, respected, and valued. As an institution that educates the next generation of leaders, we will fail them, our communities, and ourselves if we do not act when we know that more than words are expected of us.

Learn. Understand. Act. Lead. The following are some of the ways Grand Valley will realize those standards against which we must be measured.

Message from President Philomena V. Mantella

We must elevate the voices and experiences of our Black faculty, staff, and students.

We must listen carefully, valuing each member of our community.

We must fulfill our goals for inclusion and equity.

We must all deepen our understanding and knowledge through education.

We must then use this knowledge as the basis for understanding and addressing institutional and systemic racism and oppression to make meaningful change.

Progress Update

  • President Mantella issues statement to the campus community on our actions for racial equity. Read the full statement here
  • Appoint a campus-wide network of advisors to ensure our full community shapes and commits to this work and that Black faculty, staff, students, and alumni voices are elevated to the highest level of engagement with me and all university senior leaders. (Accountable leads: Dean George Grant, Director of Athletics Keri Becker, and Vice President Jesse Bernal)
  • Network of Advisors meeting.
  • Convene a Grand Valley Campus Safety task force to review current policing practices and recommend any needed change. (Accountable leads: Vice President Greg Sanial, Vice President Jesse Bernal, Chief Brandon DeHaan)
  • Network of Advisors meeting.
  • Identify structural changes and opportunities that strengthen accountability across the organization for leadership and supervisors in advancing inclusion and equity, including in our recruitment, evaluation, and promotion processes, campus climate metrics, and their own education. (Accountable leads: Vice President Jesse Bernal, AVP Maureen Walsh)
    • A team has convened to discuss the creation of Inclusion & Equity Officers in colleges and divisions. Additional details will be provided in October 2020.
  • We have a special obligation to the City of Grand Rapids which hosts nearly half of the university’s enrollment and many of our public service degree programs. Over the summer, we committed university talent and resources to the City’s development of a new youth employment program – GRow1000 – a commitment to provide paid employment to at least 1,000 Grand Rapids youth ages 15-21 this summer with priority to those neighborhoods and zip codes which have been most heavily impacted by disproportionate outcomes, including COVID-19. President Mantella also waived all financial requirements for Pell-eligible students in the City’s high schools for enrollment in Grand Valley’s new Math Advantage Program for rising high school seniors and college-bound high school graduates. Success in this gateway program will help to improve college readiness and retention which disproportionately impacts our communities of color.

  • Network of Advisors meeting.
  • Support Student Senate in its development of peer-to-peer learning and other initiatives. (Accountable leads: Vice Provost Loren Rullman & Associate Vice President Marlene Kowalski-Braun)
    • A design thinking exercise is planned for fall 2020 to engage diverse students from across campus to develop a learning module for students that is built by students.
  • Expand the university's financial aid program to include a racial equity scholarship in honor of the Black lives that have been lost due to racialized violence. Students that demonstrate a commitment to social justice and racial equity may be eligible. (Accountable leads: Vice President Karen Loth & Associate Vice President Michelle Rhodes)
    • With university support, the Grand Valley's Social Justice Scholarship will be open for applications in October. The first awards will be made for Fall 2021 students.
  • Network of Advisors meeting.
    • President Mantella has approved the hiring of a university ombuds for employees. The search will begin in Fall 2020.

Initiatives Currently Underway

  • Universal training for all members of our university community to enable each of us to build the necessary understanding, knowledge, and skills for social justice, power, privilege, and anti-racism. 
  • Accountable leads: Division of Inclusion and Equity, Human Resources, and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center
  • Finalizing a salary equity study.
  • Accountable lead: AVP Maureen Walsh
  • Explore ways we can expand education for our students and one another on the forces of systemic racism, with an eye to ensuring every graduate deepens their understanding of social justice and racial equity through a Grand Valley experience.
  • Accountable leads: Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost, Dr. Maria Cimitile, University Academic Senate Chair, Dr. Felix Ngassa, University Academic Senate Vice Chair, Dr. Shawn Bultsma
  • Embrace the opportunity for the GVSU Police Academy to lead the way in enhancing public safety education with more robust requirements for diversity, inclusion, and de-escalation. Moreover, to assure this kind of culturally- and community-centered public safety education is a part of the systems of support necessary for communities to thrive.
  • Accountable leads: Provost Cimitile & Dean Grant
  • Develop an even more aggressive program for the recruitment and retention of students of color that will be undergirded by policies that remove barriers to access.
    • In September 2020, Vice President Truss convened a Strategic Enrollment Management Task Force to begin work towards this charge.
  • Accountable lead: Vice President B. Donta Truss
  • Develop a new strategic enrollment management plan with strategies and initiatives with the bold goal of removing all equity gaps.
    • In September 2020, Vice President Truss convened a Strategic Enrollment Management Task Force to begin work towards this charge.
  • Accountable lead: Vice President B. Donta Truss
  • Review previous campus climate survey recommendations for necessary updates.
  • Convene action teams using the 2019 data for additional recommendations.
    • In September 2020, the University Academic Senate and Division of Inclusion and Equity convened a task force to review the 2019 data.
  • Lead: AVP Kathleen VanderVeen

Work begins to inventory all social justice educational programming on campus. The university maintains a diversity dashboard at

Accountable lead: AVP Kathleen VanderVeen

Network of Advisors

  • Philomena V. Mantella, President
  • Jesse M. Bernal, Vice President for Inclusion and Equity & Executive Associate for Presidential Initiatives
  • Alisha Davis, Assistant Chair and Allied Health Sciences Program Director & Faculty Co-Chair of the Black Faculty/Staff Association
  • Jennifer Drake, Dean, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
  • Keri Becker, Athletic Director
  • Connie Dang, Senior Inclusion & Equity Officer
  • Linda Ray, Inclusion & Equity Coordinator
  • Maria Cimitile, Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic & Student Affairs
  • Karen Loth, Vice President for University Development
  • Greg Sanial, Vice President for Finance & Administration
  • B. Donta Truss, Vice President for Enrollment Development & Educational Outreach
  • Felix Ngassa, Professor of Chemistry & Chair of the University Academic Senate
  • Shawn Bultsma, Associate Professor of School Counseling & Vice Chair of the University Academic Senate
  • Dianne Green-Smith, Professor, Social Work
  • Michael Scantlebury, Associate Professor, Hospitality and Tourism Management
  • Annie Bélanger, Dean of Libraries
  • Christine Rener, Pew FTLC and Vice Provost for Instructional Development and Innovation
  • Loren Rullman, Vice President & Dean of Students 
  • Marlene Kowalski-Braun, Associate Vice President for Inclusion & Student Services
  • Michelle Rhodes, Associate Vice President for Financial Aid & Scholarships 
  • Kathleen VanderVeen, Associate Vice President for Equity & Compliance 
  • Scott Ayotte, Director of Affirmative Action/EEO & Equity Officer
  • Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle, Vendor Relations Manager, Procurement Services 
  • Aliya Armstrong, Director of TRIO-Teacher Preparation Student Support Services 
  • Quincy Williams, Undergraduate and Internship Coordinator, School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration 
  • Renica Minott, Senior Academic Advisor, CCPS Advising Center 
  • Takeelia Garrett, Student Ombuds & Co-Chair, Black Faculty/Staff Association, Staff 
  • Koleta Moore, Assistant Dean, Student Engagement Graduate Program Operations, Seidman College of Business 
  • Briette Bryant Phillips, Development Officer for Scholarship and Fellowship Giving 
  • Anthony Williams, Director, Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution 
  • William Washington, Director, TRIO Studentt Support Services 
  • Aaron Turner, Development Director, WGVU PBS and NPR 
  • Brandon DeHaan, Director of Public Safety & Chief of Police
  • Stepha’N Quicksey, Graduate Student 
  • Julian Sanders, Undergraduate Student 
  • Alex Murarescu, Vice President for Diversity Affairs (Student Senate)
  • Maya Sanders, Undergraduate Student, President, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
  • DeMario Bell
  • Shavon Doyle-Holton

Network of Advisors for Racial Equity News

A message from President Philomena V. Mantella

President Philomena V. Mantella said GVSU will continue to use education and advocacy to create change and will prioritize criminal justice reform.

Apr 20, 2021

Agreement with HBCU creates pathway for students, helps diversify area workforce

Grand Valley signed an agreement with an HBCU in Georgia that will support students in a master's degree program in engineering/computing and help diversify the talent pipeline for West Michigan employers.

Apr 8, 2021

History faculty member named director of Kutsche Office of Local History

Nora Salas, associate professor of history, has been named director of Grand Valley's Kutsche Office of Local History.

Apr 6, 2021

View More Network of Advisors for Racial Equity News

Anti-Racism Resources

Educate Yourself About Anti-Racism & White Privilege

Educate Yourself About History

      Videos & Training

      More to Read:

      • Between the World and Me  - Ta-Nehisi Coates
      • White Fragility  - Robin diangelo
      • Sister Outsider  - Audre Lorde 
      • How to be an Antiracist  - Ibram X. Kendi 
      • The Fire Next Time  - James Baldwin 
      • Just Mercy : A Story of Justice and Redemption  - Bryan Stevenson 
      • A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story  - Elaine brown 
      • Policing the Planet  - Jordan T. Camp, Christian Heatherton
      • So You Want to Talk about Race  - Ijeoma Oluo 
      • The Hate U Give  - Angie Johnson (young adult fiction) 
      • Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-based Stress and Trauma  by Dr. Gail Parker
      • Healing Racial Trauma: The Road to Resilience  by Sheila Wise Rowe

      More to Watch: 

      • Just Mercy Destin Daniel Cretton  (free on Youtube for the month of June!)
      • 13th  - Ava Duvernay
      • When They See Us  - Ava Duvernay 
      • The Black Power Mixtape  - Gõran Olsson 
      • The Black Panthers  - Stanley Nelson 
      • The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson  - David France 
      • If Beale Street Could Talk  - Barry Jenkins 
      • The Hate U Give  - George Tillman Jr 

      More to Listen:

      The Laker Familia student network at GVSU.

      A Native American Pow Wow held by NAAC at GVSU.

      GVSU students at the Black Excellence Orientation.

      GVSU faculty, students, and alums working on a community project.

      GVSU students talking out in front of Student Services.

      A GVSU student at graduation.