About Us

Our Staff

Valerie Guzman

Valerie Guzman

Associate Director of Student Life

Valerie Guzman oversees the Student Organization, Greek Life, and Leadership Development team within the Office of Student Life.  Additionally, she works with the Transitions New Student Orientation Program, leads the staff development efforts in Student Life, oversees the Student Senate Appropriations Committee, and advises Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honorary.  Valerie spent nearly 10 years working with civic engagement and leadership development in prior positions including at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL, and GVSU. Valerie earned her undergraduate degree from Central Michigan University, M.Ed in College Student Affairs Leadership from GVSU, and Ed.S in Leadership from GVSU. She has a passion for and background in several instruments including certification as a True Colors(R) Facilitator, Myers Briggs Type Indicator(R) Practitioner, and is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach (Clifton Strengths for Students; formerly known as StrengthsQuest(R)).  

StrengthsQuest Signature Themes:

Responsibility - Relator - Discipline - Achiever - Harmony

Mikaela Padgen Headshot

Mikaela Padgen

Leadership Staff Assistant


Mikaela joined the leadership team in the fall of 2017 as a Leadership Development Intern and is incredibly excited to start her second year as Leadership Staff Assistant.  Mikaela works with the various leadership opportunities in the Office of Student Life, including First Year Leadership Experience.  Mikaela is a senior at Grand Valley majoring in Psychology with a minor in Juvenile Justice and plans to become a social worker specializing in interpersonal practice.  On campus, Mikaela serves as a Resident Assistant as well as the Vice President of Community Development for the Panhellenic Association, a Student Ambassador for the Office of Admissions and Vice President of Values for Order of Omega Honor Society.  Mikaela is also involved in Psi Chi Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.  Mikaela is very passionate about leadership development, and loves working with her fellow students and staff in the OSL!

StrengthsQuest Signature Themes:

Positivity - Developer - Connectedness - Woo - Communication

Our Mission

The Laker Leadership Programs are offered through the Office of Student Life at Grand Valley State University.

Our mission is to provide GVSU students with training, education, and experiences which encourage growth as life-long leaders of integrity and social change within their lives, professions, and communities.

What we consider effective leadership has changed dramatically and continues to change; LLP provide students the opportunity to learn and apply new leadership techniques in a social and engaging environment.

Our philosophy of leadership is based on the idea that leadership can be learned and that even experienced leaders can continue to learn new concepts. We also support the notion that leadership is a collaborative group process that is inclusive of all participants and therefore not focused on an individual but instead on the relationship between group members. Our belief is that the outcome of the leadership process is oriented toward positive change, whether within the group or the greater community.

Social Change Model of Leadership Development 

Our philosophy of leadership development is rooted strongly in the social change model of leadership development and the "core" programs are focus on elements based on the model. Social change refers to creating positive change within the community that in some way benefits the community. Social change leaders are those who work collaboratively to ensure that change occurs. Some have described social change leaders as being focused on collective action, shared power, and having a passionate commitment to social justice and civic engagement.

The social change model is based on seven core values that should be practiced by social change leaders. They are referred to as the seven c's of Social Change and include consciousness of self, congruence, commitment, collaboration, common purpose, controversy with civility, and citizenship. We highly encourage students to participate in these programs.

"Many people view college as a stepping-stone to careers in which they will be leaders. This leadership may be in a classroom, courtroom, corporation, hospital, community agency, ministry, service organization, or in their own business. This reality, plus the fact that virtually every college graduate will be supervising someone, points to the importance of learning how to be an effective leader." 

- Developing Leadership Strengths in College, Donald O. Clifton and Edward "Chip" Anderson 2004

Diversity statement: We believe that every aspect of University life, including the Laker Leadership Programs, should be free from discrimination because of age, color, disability, familial status, height, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, or weight. All students are welcome to participate in the Laker Leadership Programs.

Please contact our staff if you need accommodations for any of our programs.