Messages

Winter 2024

January 11, 2024

Dear Colleagues,

As we welcome the new year, I am filled with pride and appreciation for our community’s efforts, which have fueled remarkable progress. Your passion and commitment have been crucial in advancing the priorities listed above and shared last August. As we build on success, let’s take a moment to examine the strides we’ve made together.

Empower Student Learning

  • In 2022, the formation of the Division of Student Affairs marked a pivotal change. This fall we successfully integrated primary student services into this new framework. This integration has unlocked opportunities to enhance our support for students, enriching their sense of belonging and intensifying their engagement with the university.
  • In fall 2023, we conducted an in-depth review of university housing in alignment with our university master plan to better meet the growing needs of our incoming and returning students and address the challenges presented by our older traditional first-year buildings. The completed 10-year Housing Master Plan will be available soon. 

Analyze Enrollment Data

  • Our Strategic Enrollment Management Plan (SEMP) has been instrumental in steering our growth as an inclusive public university. This winter, we celebrate another rise in enrollment, a continuation of our record-breaking fall semester achievements. We are also making strides in student retention, with preliminary numbers showing our first gains since the decline during and post-pandemic. As we continue to build momentum, Drs. Fatma Mili, Jenny Hall-Jones, and Donta Truss will host town halls to discuss ongoing initiatives and gather your valuable input. Keep an eye on Lakers Ready for upcoming dates.
  • This sustained enrollment growth is enabling us to invest in crucial areas, particularly those which fuel student success. This January we will add faculty, support the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Voyage, and increase academic support areas. We will also make strategic investments in other key areas such as inclusion and equity, adult learning, enrollment, fundraising and technology. Your vice president can provide more detail on what is being done in specific areas. Continued positive enrollment performance will enable us to address more strategic needs as we begin the fiscal year 2025 budget planning. 
  • Provost Mili, working with the deans and University Academic Senate, is broadening our data insights to refine program reviews and support sound decision-making.
  • With the announcement of the new Padnos College of Engineering and the new College of Computing, we have identified engineering and computing as key growth areas. With two distinct colleges, we will increase capacity and integrate technology and digital skills across the university and in support of enterprises across the region.  

Boost Adult Enrollment

  • In Fall 2023, the Provost and I requested Dr. Kara Van Dam, Vice Provost for Graduate and Lifetime Learning, to work on new approaches to scaling our lifelong learning given the enormous state and national need for upskilling and reskilling. We are looking at how we do this while complementing, not distracting from, our focus on serving traditional learners.
  • In shaping this vision, we will optimize our regional campuses, which Dr. Van Dam also oversees. These locations are a huge asset in serving place-bound adult learners and place a Grand Valley campus within 100 miles of 97% of Michigan’s population. This makes low residency hybrid delivery possible, which we know is preferred by adult learners. We also continue to work to secure external funding to support this ambitious vision for all Michiganders.

Build a Blue Dot Ecosystem

  • The Blue Dot ecosystem was supported by a significant $30 million investment from state capital outlay funding in December. Blue Dot embodies our dedication to reshaping our campuses as pivotal hubs for technology and innovation. This initiative is not just about enhancing physical spaces; it’s about creating a vibrant, collaborative environment where technology, innovation, talent, and community aspirations intersect. Blue Dot will serve as a cornerstone for our region’s technological strategy and a catalyst for nurturing the talent that will propel Michigan’s tech economy.
  • There will be much more to share as we work together to raise the additional funding required to enliven our vision and shape the facilities and initiatives that drive this work.  

Care for Our People and Culture

  • Thanks to everyone's efforts, especially the dedicated project team, we have successfully implemented Workday. This system streamlines and supports various business processes, ensuring efficient use of our time and more systemic use and management of data. 
  • We’ve adopted Harvard University’s COACHE faculty survey and the Higher Education Data Consortium’s (HEDS) climate survey to better understand faculty and staff experiences.
  • We’re also streamlining our complaint resolution process for greater accessibility and effectiveness.
  • The Inclusion & Equity Activation and Accountability Team (AALT) has been formed and is working, representing a pivotal step towards our shared equity model. This model is more than a structural change; it’s a manifestation of our unwavering dedication to fostering an environment where equitable and effective leadership is woven into the fabric of every division and ensuring that every decision and action taken at GVSU is infused with a deep sense of responsibility and accountability.

This year’s achievements are a direct result of your unwavering commitment to our public mission executed in a spirit of collaboration and innovation. I will continue to share progress and priorities as they emerge and take shape in the future. As we move forward, let’s harness this momentum and embrace new opportunities with renewed appreciation for this institution and its people. 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President

Fall 2023

Dear GVSU Faculty and Staff,

Congratulations on an amazing start to the new academic year.  As I travel across our campuses, the levels of excitement and eagerness are noticeable and speak to the positive momentum that we’ve built thanks to your hard work and dedication.

I want to give you a first look at the numbers I’ll be sharing with media and stakeholders from around the state this morning that show how our students and the community are responding to the work we’ve done as part of our Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan.

I’ve previously discussed how our incoming class is our largest and most diverse ever. The final figures are in and the total for the Class of 2027 is 4,974 students, an increase of 24 percent over last year. This includes almost 1,400 students of color (28 percent of the class) and both African American or Black students (11 percent) and Hispanic/Latino students (9 percent) are also all-time highs.

Our overall enrollment is seeing gains as well.  Our total number of students is 22,269, which is a 3 percent increase. 22.7 percent are students of color, which is our highest percentage ever.

GVSU’s appeal stretches far beyond West Michigan, with students enrolled from all 83 Michigan counties, each of the 50 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico) and a 17 percent increase in international students. You can read more about our momentum in this news release, which will be distributed this morning.

This success would not be possible without our dedicated faculty and supportive staff.  Your work to inspire, guide and support every learner at every step in their GVSU journey is setting us apart and fueling our growth.

GVSU has come a long way since our creation in the middle of Ottawa County 60 years ago. Now, at a time when the need for developing and retaining the talent necessary for the modern knowledge economy is critical, we are re-imagining opportunities for growth, building capacity and embracing the responsibility of delivering value. We are rewriting the narrative of public higher education and defining the flagship university of the future.

Our entire leadership team knows that one year is not a trend and we will keep pushing to create a better tomorrow for our university, our community and the world around us.

I am excited to share the results of your hard work this morning and look forward to what we will achieve together moving forward.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear alumni and supporters of GVSU,

Greetings from campus, where the energy and Grand Valley pride is stronger than ever! From welcoming our largest and most diverse incoming class in school history to experiencing another strong start for our athletic teams, it is a great time to be a Laker.

Homecoming is less than one month away and we look forward to welcoming you back to campus. This year’s Homecoming will take place from October 25-29 and I want to personally invite you to take part and celebrate our past, present and future.

Every day, Laker alumni around the world use their knowledge and passion to make a positive impact on their community. I’m pleased to share with you the Lakers who will be honored during Homecoming at our annual Alumni Awards for their commitment to the university and their positive impact on their professions and society. They are:

Distinguished Alumni Award: Shannon Cohen ’00 & ’11

Shannon Cohen is a business owner, author, motivational speaker, podcaster, and self-described “hope dealer.” Shannon graduated from Grand Valley in 2000 with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international relations and earned a master’s degree in 2011 in public administration. She is the founder and CEO of Shannon Cohen, Inc. where she develops customized emotional intelligence, equity, and wellness trainings. Her inspirational product line, Tough Skin, Soft Heart, is available at retailers nationwide, including the GVSU Laker Stores. Cohen is also founder of the global Rockstar Woman Brunch Experience, serving thousands of women annually. I’m also pleased to share that Shannon will serve as the guest speaker at our Fall Commencement on December 9. 

Young Alumni Award: Nicki Bonczyk ’14

Nicki Bonczyk is an engineering onboarding lead at JR Automation, where she oversees the onboarding and training experience for JR’s 11 North American locations. She graduated from Grand Valley in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in product design and manufacturing engineering and began working for JR through the GVSU Co-Operative education program. Since 2009, Nicki has volunteered with FIRST Robotics, a global robotics community that prepares young people for the future through inclusive, team-based robotics programs. 

 

Outstanding Educator Award: Neal Buckwalter

Neal Buckwalter is an associate professor of public administration at GVSU. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and in 2004 with a master’s degree in public administration. He earned a doctoral degree in public affairs from Indiana University in 2012. Buckwalter serves as the director of the Master of Public Administration program and the faculty advisor for the GVSU International City/County Management Association student chapter, an award-winning student-run organization that connects participants to professional opportunities in local government. 

Outstanding Staff Award: Chris Barbee ’88

Chris Barbee graduated from GVSU with his bachelor’s degree in broadcasting in 1988 and began his career at West Michigan Public Broadcasting as a news and sports reporter and producer. After serving as press secretary to Congressman Vern Ehlers in Washington, D.C., he returned to Grand Valley in 2002 to serve as the second-ever director of GVSU Alumni Relations, a role he continued in for nearly 20 years. In that time, he oversaw the development of innovative alumni programs including the award-winning event, “Paving the Way for Future Generations: Stories of African Americans Who Were Firsts at Grand Valley." 

The four winners will be saluted at the annual Alumni Awards Celebration on Friday, October 27. That gathering is one of many set for this year’s Homecoming in which we will celebrate our six decades of growth and how we are building Michigan’s flagship university of the future. You can check out the full schedule of Homecoming events and keep watching your email and social media for more information as we prepare to celebrate GVSU! 

Thank you for your continued support and Go Lakers!

Philly

Philomena V. Mantella, President
Grand Valley State University

Dear Campus Community,

I join with many of you in condemning the terrorist attacks against Israel and being filled with sadness about the continuing violence in Israel and in Palestinian territories. Our hearts are heavy for the countless lives lost and those that have forever changed because of this war.

We do not currently have any students studying or faculty teaching in the area. However, we understand that you may have personal connections to the region, and we should all care deeply about what is happening in our world.
 
During these difficult moments, the University Counseling Center is available by phone at (616) 331-3266 for students. The Employee Assistance Program, Encompass, is available to help with confidential and professional mental health resources for employees and family members. Staff of GVSU’s Kaufman Interfaith Institute are also available to connect you to communities of support and interfaith resources both on- and off-campus. For more information, please contact [email protected] or visit www.gvsu.edu/interfaith
 
Universities should always stand as places of peace, civility and care. My thoughts are with all of those who are suffering in the wake of this ongoing tragedy. We are here for you.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President
Grand Valley State University

Dear GVSU Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Today we commemorate National Coming Out Day to celebrate the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) individuals. In doing so we are reminded that this day was created to recognize and support people in their coming out journeys, acknowledging both the joy and pain that may be associated.

In the last six months there have been some transphobic and homophobic incidents across the country and on our campus. These incidents are a contradiction to our institutional values of inclusion and equity and have caused harm to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially people who identify as transgender/nonbinary. We must collectively safeguard each individual’s constitutional rights to free speech while elevating our speech and action to support the creation of a campus where all members feel acknowledged, respected, valued, and safe. We care about addressing incidents that may negatively affect individuals and/or communities and want students, faculty and staff to utilize campus climate concern reporting.

As a university, holding space for dialogue, listening and action to ensure all members of our community experience joy, safety and security, matters deeply to me and I hope to each of you. Support, education and advocacy are all pieces of this work as evidenced by some of our recent efforts:

  • We have built a dedicated team, led by Ed Aboufadel, Kevin Carmody, Deb Sanders, Elisa Ortega-Schultz, and Kathleen VanderVeen, to advance recommendations to refine and streamline our complaint mechanisms and consider a non-retaliation policy. 
  • We have taken steps to secure and align our employee resource groups by connecting them with a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) liaison to elevate and enable their insights. 
  • Dedicated staff from the LGBT Resource Center, IT and the Registrar’s Office have led the expansion of Banner to myProfile which will soon facilitate self-reporting of pronouns and sexual orientation for both employees and students—a crucial enhancement. 
  • We have committed to regular pulse surveys and mechanisms to gather feedback in between campus climate surveys.
  • D.L. McKinney, Director of the LGBT Resource Center, has created a robust set of educational offerings through the Inclusion and Equity Institute should you find yourself curious and wanting to learn more.
  • The LGBT Resource Center continues to provide incredible support and connection for students as does the LGBT FSA for faculty and staff.

 

Let us all commit to ensuring that members of our LGBTQIA+ community and every individual in our community feels safe and a deep sense of belonging at GVSU. Let’s consider how each of us will model the respect we expect from others. It takes all of us to create an affirming and welcoming environment. I’m grateful for your willingness to reflect with me on this important day.

Sincerely,

Philly

Philomena V. Mantella
President

Dear Grand Valley Community,

I recognize that many of you have recently returned from fall break and hope that it provided you with some much-needed rest and an opportunity to connect with your loved ones -- a connection that is especially crucial during these challenging times. There’s no denying that the past few weeks have been extremely painful due to escalating violence and the devastating atrocities of war in the Middle East weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. I urge each of us to continue in prayer in our own spiritual tradition for all the victims of this conflict and to remain committed to caring for one another. 

As an academic community committed to the values of human dignity, social justice and human rights, we must support one another in these jarring moments. We may need to process our feelings to move from helplessness and anger to understanding and agency. Beginning this week, we will be holding reflection spaces for students, faculty and staff in order to help with that process. 

The Kaufman Interfaith Institute will host drop-in spaces for individual processing and decompression, offering activities like note writing and art to express grief and to find hope. Here are the details for the reflection spaces:

  • Thursday, October 26 - Allendale - Cook-DeWitt Center Lounge, 4-5 pm
  • Friday, October 27 - Health Campus - Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences (CHS), Room 290, 4-5 pm
  • Monday, October 30 - Pew Grand Rapids Campus - DeVos Center (University Club), 1:30-2:30 pm

Additionally, the University Counseling Center continues to offer daily, virtual drop-in Let’s Talk sessions and Interfaith Reflection Rooms are available for silent reflection or prayer.

If you need further support, please know that there are resources available. Students can reach out to the University Counseling Center, while employees and their family members can access confidential mental health resources through Encompass. The staff at GVSU's Kaufman Interfaith Institute are also here to connect you with support communities and interfaith resources. 

In turbulent and painful times, let’s remember that education, empathy and global understanding can serve as beacons of hope that lead us to a more peaceful future.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President
Grand Valley State University

Dear Grand Valley Community, 

On the heels of a great Homecoming, we are more than halfway through our fall semester and continue to build on our success. From our classrooms to the community to athletics, we are raising the level of positive momentum we brought into the year. Today I want to share with you details of how we are continuing to focus on our mission amidst the challenges and opportunities of our times to serve our students and our communities at the highest level. 

One of our goals for this year is to build capacity to scale our impact and deliver an education fit for the future that our learners and our communities will face. With this in mind, today our Board of Trustees approved a reorganization that will lead to the creation of two colleges in Fall 2024, the Padnos College of Engineering and a new college of computing. There are widespread and growing needs in these fields, particularly as Michigan reshapes manufacturing, expands mobility and leads a technological transformation. This reorganization will allow our Padnos College of Engineering to expand its offerings and reach by building on its track record of strong community partnerships, first class undergraduate education and capitalizing on expanded state support. Our new college of computing will meet the demand for talent in many in-demand fields while engaging more deeply with programs across campus to support digital literacy and technological advancements across all fields and disciplines. This is especially vital in the modern world where computing touches every science, creative activity or human endeavor. 

Today’s decision is a big step, but one of many to continue the GVSU tradition of agility, innovation, currency, and intellectual leadership. This administrative move will not disrupt current engineering and computing students in any way. These students will seamlessly continue with their plans of study in their current curricula. As our plans unfold, there will be expanded opportunities to look forward to.

I want to thank the Provost for her recommendation and everyone who participated in the exploration and dialogues that led up to this decision. There were many thoughtful, respectful discussions that showed a spirit of collaboration and a focus on doing what is best for our students and community. I also want to thank Dean Paul Plotkowski and the faculty and staff of PCEC for bringing the college to the level of excellence that makes building from this base the right strategy for GVSU and Michigan. 

Again, we move with intentionality to lean into Reach Higher 2025 and the priorities set for this year. As the academic calendar moves forward, we will continue to act thoughtfully and strategically to enhance our student experience and expand our impact. Thank you for all that each of you do to make GVSU so exceptional. I’m excited for the bright future we are shaping for our university and the communities we serve. 

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President

Dear colleagues, 

As we rapidly approach the holidays and the end of the year, we're preparing for an exciting change that will simplify, unite and improve many of our work processes.

Beginning in January, numerous HR, finance, and payroll activities will be completed in Workday. Click the link below to see my conversation with Miloš Topi, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Digital Officer, about what this means for all of us and what we should do right now to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Workday transition update

I want to thank the hundreds of people who over the past few years have pulled double duty, putting in countless hours preparing for this move in addition to their daily responsibilities. I also want to commend the dozens of GVSU staff who will be working through the holidays to assure that we are up and running in January.    

This transition will better position us to continue our growth and serve our students and community. Our entire leadership team appreciates your patience and assistance as we work through this change together.

Sincerely,  

Philly 

Philomena V. Mantella, President
Grand Valley State University

Dear Colleagues,
 
As we reconvene after Thanksgiving break, I hope that your time was filled with deep connections and thoughtful reflection opportunities. I want to acknowledge and convey my sincere thanks to a number of dedicated colleagues in IT, Finance and Human Resources who worked throughout the break to keep our Workday project on pace. To all who are GVSU, thank you for your energy and passion every day.
 
We all continue our journey to Reach Higher 2025 and, specifically this year we are working on the five priorities I outlined in August to build capacity to fulfill our commitments and broaden our impact.
 
I want to express my gratitude to all of you for the significant progress we have made on these priorities: expanding the Division of Student Affairs, the Board of Trustees approving a new College of Computing for Fall 2024, securing state funding for our Blue Dot initiative and expanding individual and corporate investment in our strategy.
 
Today, I want to highlight our progress in building capacity to Care for People and Culture:
 
Employee Climate: On recommendation from the Network of Advisors for Racial Equity, GVSU has joined more than 300 universities in administering Harvard University’s COACHE survey this winter to gain deeper insights into our faculty experience. Alongside this, Professor Karyn Rabourn begins her role as a Presidential Fellow, focusing on fostering inclusive engagement across academic departments. We are also committed to re-administering our myGVSU campus climate survey with the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium (HEDS) to all employees and students in fall 2024.
 
Workday Goes Live: Starting January 3, 2024, Workday becomes the new operational backbone for all faculty and staff at GVSU. This cutting-edge platform is set to streamline our work processes, create efficiency and convenience, and help address inequities. Please take the time now to complete the training and establish your own personal readiness.
 
Enhanced Complaint Resolution Initiative: We have streamlined the complaint resolution and grievance processes by working with the Employee Ombuds, Division of Inclusion and Equity, Human Resources Office, Provost’s Office and our faculty/staff associations. Beginning in early 2024, there will be a single entry point for all employee-related complaints and grievances, eliminating the complexity of multiple filing avenues. In addition, key stakeholder groups will have the opportunity to weigh into policy and procedure enhancements to further streamline the process. Instructions and more details will be shared next semester.
 
Expanding DEI Efforts Institutionally and Nationally: Our Division of Inclusion and Equity will continue to expand the Inclusion and Equity Institute to reach a broader audience, deepening on-campus training and development opportunities. They are also primed to make their mark nationally, given the expansive expertise of our faculty and staff in this important space through new collaborations and partnerships. The Kaufman Interfaith Institute is intensifying its national and international role in promoting interfaith understanding and rebuilding our campus interfaith support and education. This includes working with the U.S. Department of Education, reopening our nationally recognized Campus Interfaith Resources efforts and offering new opportunities for building understanding such as participation in Interfaith Photovoice. This is particularly critical given world affairs today that touch us at every level.
 
In addition, the Division of Inclusion and Equity will play a crucial role in expanding the REP4 national alliance. This alliance, which is in the process of adding to its original seven members, is working as a community of practice to ensure that every student has a voice in their education and in shaping our institutions. We will continue to work diligently to ensure DEI is imperative, giving every student, with all their diverse backgrounds, agency for their learning, a voice in our institutions, a sense of belonging in our communities, and the opportunity to fulfill their promise.
 
Our journey of growth and capacity building continues with unwavering vigor. Your individual and collective efforts are pivotal to our shared success. Let’s continue to push the boundaries of excellence, inclusion and innovation, making GVSU not just a place of learning, but the best place to work and serve.

Thank you for your dedication and contributions.
 
Sincerely,
 
Philomena V. Mantella
President

Spring/Summer 2023

Dear Campus Community,

June brings a sense of celebration and unique learning experiences to our communities and our campuses.

These celebrations reflect great achievement, but also allow us to work together to assure all people can feel like they belong and have the opportunity to succeed.

June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate and come together with the LGBTQ communities to foster the spirit of inclusion and welcoming that is the heart of GVSU’s commitment to creating a culture of educational equity.

I am so proud to have multiple GVSU departments coming together to sponsor Pride celebrations in Holland and Grand Rapids this year. This community engagement helps nurture the sense of welcome that has made West Michigan one of the beacons for talent and growth in the Midwest.

Celebrating Pride Month is just one recent way we’ve been building a brighter community.

This week we also welcomed the second annual Black Boys & Men Symposium, an intersectional gathering of leaders from throughout our region who are committed to asking difficult questions, deconstructing failed systems and creating conditions that allow more Black boys and men to succeed.

The symposium will be followed by next week’s Juneteenth Celebration, commemorating the freedom of enslaved people in Texas more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Our inaugural events will include a luncheon and presentation by Professor Bobby J. Smith II, interdisciplinary sociologist and assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The luncheon will be followed by a GVSU Quest Series faculty panel, “Understanding and Celebrating Juneteenth.

Finally, yesterday I was pleased to join with the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce to launch a new partnership with Global Detroit that will take a two-pronged approach to making West Michigan a more welcoming place for immigrant entrepreneurs:

  • The Global Talent Retention Initiative will connect West Michigan companies with international students and graduates, helping to fill critical talent gaps.
  • The Global Entrepreneur in Residence program will provide a pathway for foreign-born entrepreneurs to launch their companies here in the United States, placing them with universities to mentor and teach while working on their startups.

I am more convinced than ever that our future depends on our ability to build inclusive communities.

Thank you to all who continue to offer intentional and creative programming that truly make students Lakers for a Lifetime.

 

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, president

Dear colleagues,

As we approach the fall semester, GVSU is on track for a record-setting class of first-year students. Our preliminary outlook shows an incredibly talented and diverse incoming class that draws from many new regions of the state and beyond.

You’ll recall that in order to improve the decision process for students and parents, we announced our tuition and room and board rates in April, which was much earlier than usual.  At that time, I shared with you that we would continue to work with elected leaders to increase the state’s investment in GVSU which would help us take care of our people and institutional priorities.

I’m pleased to let you know that this morning the Board of Trustees approved a budget that includes an increase in the performance-based compensation pool for faculty and administrative staff of 4.5 percent.  This represents the largest increase in the last 14 years.

This health of GVSU comes amid stories across our nation about the struggles being faced by many universities. Our success is a testament to your hard work and the intentionality of our efforts to continuously enhance the value of a GVSU education and tell our story to lawmakers and the greater community.

I know some of you have been away from campus since the end of winter semester, but for those of us who have remained during what are sometimes quiet months, there is an intense excitement in the air.

Grand Valley has momentum that is the envy of our peers. We have a growing base of talented students. Our world-class faculty and staff are committed to excellence, equity and success in and out of our classrooms. We all are embracing innovation to address some of our biggest challenges.

We have much work to do, but I look toward fall semester with a sense of excitement and optimism unlike any I have felt in my career. Lakers are truly on a rising tide thanks to each of you.

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, president

Dear Laker Community,

Today, the Supreme Court ruled on race-based admissions in higher education. Our university has long upheld a policy that does not consider race or gender in admissions decisions.  In 2006, Michigan voters passed a constitutional amendment which precludes discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender or national origin in public education, public employment or public contracting. In response, we made changes to the way we award identity-based scholarships and all student programs are open to students without regard to these characteristics.  

Our university remains resolute in our dedication to enrich society through the advancement of equity. Our Reach Higher 2025 initiative serves as a testament to our enduring pursuit to build an inclusive community where every individual has access to opportunities and the support to thrive regardless of their background or circumstances.

I am proud of the efforts taken by many who have and will continue to do work that is allowable and permissible and recognize the invaluable contributions that individuals from various backgrounds bring to the learning environment. The results can be seen on our campuses every day and will remain a focus of all that we do moving forward.

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, president

As we acknowledge the recent United States Supreme Court decision regarding student loans, I want to reiterate that Grand Valley will continue our work to make higher education more affordable and accessible while delivering the best value to our students and their supporters. The cost to attend GVSU is among the bottom quarter among public universities in Michigan and the vast majority of Lakers received some form of financial aid. This year we have once again budgeted for growth in financial aid, which has risen by 14 percent at GVSU since 2020. The Michigan Achievement Scholarship will also make college more affordable for thousands of first-year students this fall while the Grand Valley Pledge continues to provide a tuition-free Grand Valley education for all qualified Michigan students,  further lowering the cost of entry for higher education and reducing the debt burden some students face upon graduation.  We also are vigilant about cost transparency and building financial literacy to support students in making good financial decisions.
 

Philomena V. Mantella, president, Grand Valley State University

Dear GVSU Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to the start of the new academic year. I hope you all have enjoyed the beautiful Michigan summer. The energy and anticipation we feel every August is even greater this year as we find ourselves at a defining moment in GVSU’s history. Our empowered educational experience grounded in the liberal arts and sciences is resonating with students and supporters across Michigan and beyond. I am thankful to all of you, as together we are readying our students to make an immediate and lifetime impact. As we continue to build on this work, I’d like to share some summer successes and priorities for the coming year. 

First, the Michigan legislature passed and Governor Whitmer signed a state higher education appropriation that, most notably, includes an increase in our state appropriation per student to a minimum level of $4500 per year. After years of the GVSU community tirelessly highlighting the inequity of our low per-student funding amongst our peers, this increase is most welcomed. This is both a recognition of the need for a more equitable state investment and a strong acknowledgement of the excellent value we provide. While our new level of support per student is an important step for which we are truly grateful, there remains work ahead to continue to elevate and support GVSU as a statewide asset so we can get closer to the average per student level of state support. 

This is particularly important as we are projecting the largest incoming class in GVSU history, with more than 6,200 new undergraduate and graduate students, an 18 percent increase from last year and well above pre-pandemic levels. This undergraduate class brings a strong academic profile, with a median GPA of 3.65, and is our most diverse class ever. We are also seeing good progress on returning student registration and housing plans which bode well for retention and project total enrollment increasing 2-3 percent. This reverses declines present since 2016. I want to thank everyone who worked tirelessly to recruit and ensure the resources are in place to set up every one of our students for success. 

We also received a strong affirmation from the Higher Learning Commission accreditation agency just this week. The reviewers praised us, saying “Grand Valley State University presented an excellent assurance argument and sufficient evidence to show convincingly that the institution met all core components. GVSU is encouraged to continue on this journey to fulfill its inspiring mission.” Thank you to all who supported the work and the strong narration of GVSU’s story.

Our collective work is inspiring, particularly in the face of the headwinds impacting higher education. The growth of an educated populace is fundamental to global competitiveness, civic participation, and productivity and GVSU has a critical role to play. To ensure we are well positioned for this period of growth and fast-paced change, we must build on our foundational excellence, adapt to the future and build greater capacity. To that end, these are five areas of priority for the year ahead

  • Deepen our dedication to empowering student learning and focus on individual needs through active learning, success strategies and optimizing the Division of Student Affairs, which we created in 2021.
  • Proactively analyze enrollment patterns to fully understand the far-reaching implications of ongoing shifts.
  • Build an ecosystem dynamically responsive to an ever-changing world by acknowledging the intersection of technology with virtually every facet of life. We are calling this ecosystem and the physical spaces it occupiesBlue Dot.  Blue Dot reinforces the university’s mission and community collaboration by infusing technology, promoting design and digital literacy, enhancing adaptability, growing talent and applied research, deepening diversity, and accelerating experimentation and entrepreneurship to broaden our impact. 
  • Accelerate our efforts to boost adult participation in education and lifetime learning, assuring access to knowledge-economy careers. We must establish forward-leaning partnerships with enterprises, communities and government to address talent gaps and other limiters of our economic prosperity and well-being.
  • Care for our people and culture through the continuing development of strong, equitable and effective leadership, shared governance, systems that unleash our capabilities, and a community invited to surface opportunities.

Together, our collective focus on these areas and others will strengthen our capacity to fulfill our mission, pursue our aspirations and stay true to our commitments. Our pursuits will not compromise our goal of educational equity as we will remain continuously mindful of breaking down financial barriers to higher education and recruiting and empowering a diverse student body, faculty and staff with a deep sense of belonging.

I want to thank each of you all for your hard work and dedication. Our success, and that of our learners, takes the energy and focus of every faculty and staff member. Each year I see you give your very best. I am proud to be your president and cannot wait to see what heights we will reach together. 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Colleagues,

We are all ready and excited to begin welcoming students this weekend.  Thank you for loving this university as much as I do and for the key role you play in impacting the lives of students and communities. Last week, I had the opportunity to share with you our areas of focus for the year ahead, with the goal of ensuring that we are well-positioned for a period of growth and fast-paced change. I also reiterated my commitment to enhancing our foundational excellence, adaptability, and capacity for our vitally important and needed state and national impact.      

In this spirit, today, I am pleased to announce an organizational change aimed at empowering learning through increased coordination of student services and optimizing our division of student affairs.  The purpose of this realignment is to create a coordinated and holistic approach to meeting students’ needs and continuing to promote success, diversity, inclusion, and equity.

As we start the academic year, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center, the Peter Secchia Military and Veterans Resource Center, Disability Support Resources, and the Coordinator for Campus Interfaith Resources will now be part of the Division of Student Affairs. This realignment strengthens our opportunity to reduce obstacles to student achievement, supports our coordinated care approach from the time a student is recruited to GVSU through their graduation, and acknowledges the importance of the student experience in and outside the classroom. We want every Laker to have a rich educational journey, multiple opportunities for self-discovery, a strong sense of personal well-being, and a connection to other Lakers and the world around them. 

I want to acknowledge the collaborative work of our Division of Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, the Division of Inclusion and Equity, and the Division of Student Affairs who together evolved our approach to better support our students, faculty, and staff. We are one university driven by a common vision. Our continued success is a testament to our agility, commitment to excellence, efficiency, and capacity development.

In the coming weeks, let us all unite in our shared desire to elevate these five important areas of focus and opportunity. I am committed to regular updates to assure all community members have clarity on moves in support of our mission and vision. Thank you and I hope to see you throughout the many activities in the upcoming weeks.   

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella 
President

Winter 2023

Dear GVSU Community,

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.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Laker family,

Friday marks the return of one of Grand Valley’s longest-running university traditions.

The Presidents’ Ball started in 1986 as a small gathering in the Kirkhof Center and has grown into one of the most magical nights of the year for the university, attracting more than 2,000 attendees.

After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, I am excited to reignite this special formal event along with my co-host, Student Body President Faith Kidd.

Please join us at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids along with your fellow students, faculty and staff members as we celebrate The Night Time Stands Still – a theme event organizers adopted with the idea we want to make up for time lost over the past two years.

During the event we’ll also present several awards to students, faculty and staff members who have shown exceptional dedication to the university community.

This year’s Presidential Appreciation Award honors Jill Hinton Wolfe, director of Grand Valley's Secchia Military & Veterans Resource Center.

Jill has helped transform the lives of veterans and military families on this campus and has truly helped our university community become a more welcoming place for our military community. She exemplifies Grand Valley’s mission of empowering learners in their pursuits, professions, and purpose.

Our other award winners, chosen from nominees submitted by students, staff and faculty are:

•    Staff Laker of the Year: Emily First, Assistant Dean of Students
•    Student Laker of the Year - Yasmin Alemayehu
•    Student Award for Faculty Excellence -- Michelle Miller-Adams, Professor of Political Science

More information about tickets, transportation, parking options and other details is available on our Presidents’ Ball website.

I hope you’ll join Faith and me for this unforgettable evening of dining, dancing and fun. Let's make up for lost time.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear GVSU Community,
 
Over the past few weeks, our nation has grappled with the continued impact of violence in communities of color. My heart continues to go out to those trying to make sense of the violence in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, this month.

On Friday, the public could see the horrific video footage of the killing of Tyre Nichols by police officers in Memphis. His death leaves a void that cannot be filled and is a tragic reminder of the realities of systemic racism and violence that people of color continue to face.

Such a disregard for human life fills me, and I’m sure many of you, with deep concern and sadness. Our Black community is undoubtedly acutely affected and may be facing anxiety and fear. As we strive to provide a safe and supportive environment for all community members, we cannot help but be impacted by these incidents.

I am asking all of you to lead with compassion and care. Supervisors, managers and unit heads, please take a moment to check in with colleagues. I urge faculty and staff to connect with students, particularly students of color, to extend both personal and institutional support.
 
Remember we have a wealth of resources to support our community in difficult times. Students can make appointments with the University Counseling Center online or by phone at (616) 331-3266. Self-help resources are also available for students. The Employee Assistance Program, Encompass, provides confidential and professional mental health resources for employees and their family members. Our diverse faculty and staff can connect with colleagues through affinity groups
 
Tyre’s life and the lives lost in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay matter. We must honor their memory by acting at every level of society and in all our organizations to create a more equitable environment. I am committed to building a culture of educational equity at Grand Valley supported by the Inclusion and Equity Action and Accountability Leadership Team. I expect and urge the deliberate and swift action we have committed to across our divisions and colleges to continue with urgency as we journey toward a more just society.


As Lakers, I know you will continue to care for one another today and every day, and together we can lead the way. 
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear GVSU Faculty and Staff,

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has appointed two new members to the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees: Shelley Padnos and Ronald E. Hall. Our new trustees will begin their eight-year terms effective today and replace former trustees Megan Rydecki and Victor Cardenas, whose terms expired at the end of last year. The new appointments are subject to the advice and consent of the Michigan State Senate.

Ronald E. Hall, of Bloomfield Township, is a Southeast Michigan business leader and attorney. He is the president and chief executive officer of Bridgewater Interiors, LLC, an automotive interiors manufacturing firm located in Detroit. Before his time at Bridgewater, Hall served as a captain in the U.S. Army and then worked as an associate attorney at Dykema and corporate attorney at Johnson Controls. Hall serves on several executive boards, including the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago – Detroit Branch, Corewell Health, the Skillman Foundation, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Business Leaders for Michigan, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association – Original Equipment division, and Detroit PAL’s advisory board. He earned a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School. Hall said he is impressed with the innovative efforts of Grand Valley and is optimistic about its positive trajectory and the role he can play in its future.

Shelley Padnos, of Fennville, formerly served on the GVSU board from 2007-2014 and received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2017. Padnos is an attorney and the current executive vice president of PADNOS, a company known for its innovative recycling process. In addition to her role at PADNOS, she has served as the president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, the national trade association representing scrap processors and recyclers across North America. She has a long history of supporting the university. Padnos and Carol Sarosik created the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse Center, which is housed in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies. She has been a Grand Valley University Foundation director for three decades. Padnos earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and her Juris Doctorate from Thomas Cooley Law School. Padnos said she is eager to rejoin the board and continue to invest in the future of GVSU. 

I am confident our new trustees will significantly contribute their passion and voices to our collective work as we lead our university forward.

Sincerely, 

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Colleagues,

Join us for an engaging and thought-provoking series of talks hosted by GVSU’s Senior Leadership Team. The Laker Club Talks are an interactive platform for leaders to share their experience, knowledge and insight on topics related to leadership, strategy, and professional development.

Gather with colleagues, enjoy appetizers, beer/wine, and learn more about their personal and professional journeys in a relaxed and informal environment. Together, we will explore a variety of topics, perspectives, and ideas that empower us to form meaningful relationships and find common ground through impactful conversations.

Each talk is from 4-5 p.m. Some will be held inside the new The Laker Club, which is on the upper level of the Commons building on the Allendale Campus. Others will be in the downtown University Club room in the Richard M. DeVos Center.

I am looking forward to seeing you there,

Philomena V. Mantella, President 

--

Thursday, February 23 

"Everything I learned about higher education I learned from being an RA"
Jenny Hall-Jones, Vice President for Student Affairs 

Location: Laker Club - Commons building

Vice President Jenny Hall-Jones will share her experience, funny stories, and the important life lessons she learned in her first job as a Resident Assistant. Come ready to share your own higher ed journey or your first job’s life lessons!

--

Thursday, March 2 

"Imagination & Education"
Fatma Mili, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Location: Laker Club - Commons building

Join Provost Mili as she shares her reflections on mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s essay, “Universities and their Function” in which he states, “A university is imaginative or it is nothing – at least nothing useful.” Learn Provost’s Mili’s thoughts on how to be ready to empower learners with the skills to imagine and create new, more equitable and sustainable systems in or to break the cycle of inequity, environmental depletion. Consider reading Whitehead’s essay before the talk! 

--

Thursday, March 9

"Cheers! My Home Brewing Journey"
Greg Sanial, Vice President for Finance and Administration

Location: University Club - DeVos building

Vice President Greg Sanial shares his personal journey into craft brewing, finding the right balance of malt, hops and yeast and how this hobby helps him stay balanced in his busy life.

--

Thursday, March 16 

"Orange is not your best color! The Alphabet soup of HIPAA, FERPA & FOIA & how to stay out of trouble"
Pat Smith, General Counsel

Location: Laker Club - Commons building

General Counsel Pat Smith will go over the ways in which these federal regulations impact higher education and how you can be sure to stay on the right side of these important regulations.

--

Thursday, March 23

"Donkeys & Elephants & Rhino’s OH MY! Today’s Political Landscape" 
Stacie Behler, Vice President and Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer

Location: University Club - DeVos building

Join Vice President Stacie Behler for a conversation about the impact of local, state and federal politics on our mission at Grand Valley State University.

--

Thursday, March 30 

"Turning the Tide"
Donta Truss, Vice President for Enrollment Development & Educational Outreach

Location: Laker Club - Commons building

The presentation will share Dr. Truss’ journey from Alabama to the Midwest and will use lessons learned on the journey to highlight how GVSU can win the enrollment battle. A few thoughts will be shared about the Alabama Crimson Tide Football Program (because he loves that team) and what he has learned about turning the tide from their amazing coaches over the years.

--

Thursday, April 6
"Big Changes & Amazing Consistency: A journey over 8 years at GVSU"
Jesse Bernal, Chief of Staff to the President & Vice President for Inclusion and Equity

Location: Laker Club - Commons building

Vice President Jesse Bernal reflects on leadership transitions, change, AND stability as GVSU's longest tenured senior Executive Officer after moving from California in 2015. Join in as we reflect on where we've been and imagine where we are going as we share memories and visions.

--

Thursday, April 13
"War(s!), family, life & politics…lessons from a childhood in Bosnia & Serbia"
Miloš Topi, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Digital Officer 

Location: Laker Club - Commons building

Vice President Milos Topic will share the remarkable story of his childhood in Bosnia and Serbia and how these extreme, sometimes dangerous, experiences shaped his life and helped him achieve his goals.

--

Thursday, April 20
"Just wake up earlier (& other unhelpful advice)"

Laura Aikens, Vice President for University Development

Location: University Club - DeVos building

When struggling under the competing pressures of work, family, and community, women are often told that our problems have an easy solution: just wake up earlier! Join Vice President Laura Aikens as we break down some of the unhelpful advice we receive, talk through what we’ve discovered as real solutions, and remind each other that even if chaos is reigning, the other side of a journey is never as far as it seems. We are made of tough stuff!

For questions about the events, please contact Morgan Knapp at [email protected] or 616-331-2185

Dear Colleagues,

Reach Higher 2025 asks all of us to join together in our shared mission and vision as we strategically plan through 2025 and beyond. Through our three commitments -- an empowered educational experience, a lifetime of learning, and a culture of educational equity -- we support our students and communities today and become better prepared for those we will serve in the future.

Incredible work across many disciplines, colleges and departments is already underway to ensure we honor our commitments, yet many of us have not had the opportunity to experience this work first hand.

Join colleagues, students and community members for our inaugural Reach Higher Showcase as we share this exciting work in an interactive, exhibition-style environment.

The Showcase will take place Friday, April 21 from 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. in the Richard M. DeVos Center, Plaza (first floor, building C) on the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
 
Share your own work that supports Reach Higher 2025! The showcase will be an incredible opportunity to highlight numerous examples from across the university through a variety of exhibition styles including interactive demonstrations, poster presentations, multimedia, one-on-one interaction and other creative means you may dream up.

Submit your interest by February 24. Projects will be matched with exhibition space in early March.
 
Experience Grand Valley’s bold and visionary plan for the future and enjoy being in community together with food and fun. I hope to see you on April 21, to celebrate our collective work, discover opportunities, and learn more about our progress.
 
Sincerely,
 
Philomena V. Mantella, President 

Dear Laker community,

Like all of you, I have been following the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Turkey with a broken heart for all the suffering it caused and will continue to cause. If anything, this should give all of us reason to pause and consider how we are able to help those in need.

On Wednesday, February 15, we will gather at 1 p.m. outside the Cook Carillon Tower in Allendale as a Grand Valley family to mark a moment of silence. I invite our community to meet at the carillon or join in prayer or reflection wherever you may be at that time if you are unable to be there.

I am also working with campus and community leaders to provide more information at this event about the most effective ways our campus can mobilize to assist survivors, honor those who perished and hear stories and provide care to those in our own community affected by the earthquakes.

We’ll also share this information via our social media channels, email and the GVSU website.

More than 20,000 people are confirmed dead and hundreds of thousands of people are left without homes, in desperate need of water, food, shelter and medical assistance.

Time is of the essence. I hope you will join me in prayer, reflection and action as we seek to help those in need.

Here are a few ways the community can contribute to those efforts right now:

  • Bridge to Turkiye Give Lively: GVSU’s Turkish faculty members are raising funds for this U.S.-based non-profit that is mobilizing immediate assistance to provide, food, water, warmth, shelter and children’s needs. This effort is led by GVSU faculty members Feryal Alayont, professor of mathematics; Erkmen Giray Aslim, assistant professor of economics; Fatma Pir Cakmak, visiting professor of chemistry, Atilla Ozgur Cakmak, assistant professor of engineering; Filiz Dogru, professor of mathematics; Figen Mekik, professor of geology, and Mehmet Sozen, professor of mechanical engineering.
  • UNICEF: The United Nations Children's Fund is working to provide relief for children and their families in Syria and Turkey.
  • Doctors Without Borders: An international organization providing medical assistance in the areas of Turkey and Syria affected by the earthquakes.

Thank you for your continued care and support of our impacted community.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, president

Dear Grand Valley Community,

This morning we grieve and mourn for the Michigan State University community. Our hearts go out to those who are suffering.

We are offering our condolences and support to the entire Michigan State community. We are reaching out to our colleagues at MSU to offer whatever support or assistance that might be needed. Our Dean of Students Aaron Haight is taking the lead on offering assistance to MSU’s Student Affairs department. There is much support needed.

Many in our own community are affected by last night’s horrific violence. This terror was inflicted upon our friends and loved ones, our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers.

We must not accept violence and terrorism on our campuses or in our communities.

I ask that each of you reach out to the students, faculty and staff you interact with to extend support and guidance, if needed.

Our University Counseling Center stands ready to assist students who need support with this tragedy. Likewise, our employee assistance program (EAP) provides 24/7 crisis support for faculty and staff. The GVSU community is welcome to file a CARE referral if you are a student in need of support, know a student who needs support or are generally concerned about a student. 

I have asked Grand Valley Police Chief Brandon DeHaan to learn all we can about what happened on MSU’s campus and work with our Critical Incident Response Team to apply the lessons they learn to our own preparedness plan.

Take care of yourselves and others. MSU is hurting and people all over our state are hurting. We must join together to comfort and to make changes to prevent this from ever occurring again.

I pledge to you that I will do all that is in my power to make Michigan’s campuses safe places for living and learning. 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella

Dear Laker Community,

These past few weeks have left so many in our broader world devastated, yet your care for one another has been incredible. Thank you for being present, showing grace and engaging in the important ways that we, as a community, must during difficult times.

While we continue to process the impacts of last week’s senseless shooting at Michigan State University, I believe it is also time to act and more deeply engage our campus community about safety at Grand Valley.

On Thursday we will host two safety briefings, one in Allendale and one at our Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
Led by Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Brandon DeHaan, these briefings will include detailed information about the plans and systems in place at GVSU that seek to keep you safe should there be an active shooting event.

  • The Grand Rapids event will be held at 1 p.m. in the Loosemore Auditorium inside the DeVos Center at the Pew Campus.
  • The Allendale event will be held at 3 p.m. inside the Louis Armstrong Theatre at the Haas Center for Performing Arts.

We know that schedules may be packed on Thursday, so these briefings also will be viewable via Zoom and recordings will be posted online for you to watch at a time that works best for you. While you may already be aware of the steps you should take, recent events remind us that everyone being prepared and informed can save lives.
In addition to these briefings you will see an enhanced cadence of information regarding safety on campus, assuring we remain vigilant on a range of safety matters.

Here are some steps each one of us can take today to ensure we are availing ourselves of the wide range of safety resources available:

  • Grand Valley Police provide online resources for how to respond in the event of an active shooter situation on one of our campuses.
  • If you know of a student who may be distressed and in need of assistance, please make a referral to our CARE Team (Coordination, Assistance, Response and Education) so that we can connect them with services to help. (Of course, if you are aware of an imminent threat to safety, dial 911.)
  • If you have not already done so, please be sure you are signed up for our GVSUAlert! system to receive email and text alerts in the event of a campuswide safety issue. Students may add GVSU community supporters, such as parents, guardians and spouses to this alert system.
  • I also encourage you to download the Laker Guardian app, which allows you to contact GVPD if you are in trouble, send tips, and notify GVPD and people you trust to check in on you if you are alone or in an unfamiliar place.

Your safety is of utmost importance to me and to our university leadership. As I have said before, I pledge to you that I will do all that is in my power to make Michigan’s campuses safer places for living and learning.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, president

Dear Colleagues,

Today our Board of Trustees approved our 2023-2024 tuition, room and board rates, making Grand Valley among the first public universities in Michigan to do so. I wanted to share this story, which will be released to the media shortly, reflecting these decisions.

The Board made the decision to adopt these changes earlier than in past years in response to management recommendations to provide our students and families more and earlier certainty about what they will need to budget to attend GVSU. I was pleased that our Board was responsive to this request, fully aligned with our goal of transparency and centering our students and their families’ interests. 

Grand Valley’s cost of attendance will still remain in the bottom quarter of all Michigan public universities, and we will continue to deliver a very high-value education to both the individual and to the State of Michigan, where our graduates, faculty and staff make a radical impact.

We are also continuing our investments in financial aid to support our students who have financial needs. Our goal is that cost not be a barrier to education for any student. With a continued focus on GVSU scholarship and grant commitments, increases in the Pell grant program and the state’s new Michigan Achievement Scholarship, we will keep a GVSU education affordable for all.

With the cost of enrollment set, enabling financial clarity for our students, the work on our university budget will continue. We will also continue our ongoing work with elected leaders to urge deeper investment in a GVSU education. We will follow past practice of moving the full budget in the June Board meeting with a keen eye to caring for our people and institutional priorities.

As we end this academic year, please know how incredibly grateful I am for your continued support and for all you do to make our Laker community so special. It is the people delivering on our mission and remaining resolute around our commitments that sets us apart!

 

Thank you.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, president

Fall 2022

Dear GVSU Faculty and Staff,

It’s been a busy first few weeks of the semester, and I hope you are feeling all the energy, optimism and joy that the start of a new academic year brings! The excitement on campus is palpable, and it’s clear we are finally putting the restraints of the pandemic behind us and embracing being back together and moving forward as a community. 

I have heard the desire for more communication, trying to ensure we can learn about and celebrate important events together before that information is out in the broader community. We are also welcoming many new members of our faculty and staff to the Laker family, and there is much information and news to share. This email is the first in a series of consistent communications designed to create a more well-informed campus.

Over the last few weeks, we have welcomed an entering class of nearly 4,000 students, representing a 3 percent increase in first-year students. We have an 8 percent increase in transfer students and a 2 percent increase in graduate students. I am proud to share that this is the most diverse first-year class in the university’s 62-year history with a 23.4 percent increase (4,462) in students of color. I want to extend our gratitude to Vice President for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach B. Donta Truss and the entire team for their tireless work in reaching out and conveying the special nature of the Grand Valley experience. My thanks to all of you who represent our university so passionately and adeptly. 

While our new student progress is strong, our overall enrollment is down by 3 percent from last year. We know the pandemic impacted retention here, as it did across the country, and made everyone’s work more challenging. I thank you for your energy, effort and commitment to our learners, helping them face the struggles they had in their learning and the challenges they may have faced in their lives. 

As you may have seen, our new Provost and Executive Vice President Fatma Mili is out and about connecting with our campus colleagues and community leaders. At numerous opening events, she has beautifully articulated her philosophy for student success. She has added her leadership to our collective work of ensuring our students are fully supported and surrounded by faculty and staff who elevate their voices and cherish their dreams. What a privilege it is for all of us to be able to play such an important role.

I am proud of the strong work reflected in these enrollment results and am confident that we can come together to continue our focus on student success as we move through this academic year. Complete census data about our students will be provided to you soon, providing greater detail on enrollment results, but I wanted to share in advance the news release, which we will be posting on our news sites and distributing to outside media later today.  

Thank you for your hard work in creating a place for all students to come and thrive. Student success is truly at the heart of our efforts to Reach Higher!

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

We are almost a month into our new academic year, and I love seeing our campuses filled with activity and feeling the energy and excitement. Our ability to gather more freely in person and engage more deeply with each other is making a huge difference in the way we are building our GVSU community.

GVSU is part of the vibrancy of West Michigan, and that is largely a gift to our students, faculty and staff. We live and work in the larger community and have recently felt the impact of criminal activity in that broader community. Since the academic year began, we have sent multiple notifications regarding crimes committed away from our campuses, but near enough to warrant our notices to you. With this uptick in crime and violence happening in many cities and communities across the country, I assure you that the safety of our students and employees is a priority for the entire leadership team, whether you are on campus, in your off-campus apartment or home, or trying to enjoy the offerings of the areas surrounding Grand Valley. I want you to know what we are doing regarding safety and what each of us can do to protect ourselves and each other. 

GVSU Actions

The Grand Valley Police Department meets regularly with area law enforcement and works closely with them when crimes have been committed and investigations are underway. The Grand Rapids Police Department, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan State Police are working with us to safeguard our community. 

We have ongoing relationships with the owners and managers of the many apartment complexes that surround our Allendale Campus. Following this past weekend’s shootings at Canvas apartments, GVPD and members of Student Affairs met with managers regarding increasing their security protocols. The university will remain proactively engaged with them.

We have communicated with city officials and community leaders in Grand Rapids regarding activities on the Blue Bridge, which is adjacent to our Eberhard Center. They have acted by closing the bridge from midnight to 6 a.m. In addition, the university is updating lighting in the area and has placed barriers to discourage vehicles from driving on the pedestrian bridge.

These are a few examples of how communities working together can make positive change. There are also actions we can take as individuals.

Safety Apps and Tips – What You Can Do

All of the criminal activity in our alerts this fall has occurred in the early morning hours. If you must be out after midnight, exercise caution. Be alert to your surroundings and call 911 if you feel in danger or see suspicious activity.

The GVSU Department of Public Safety has the free Safewalk Program – if you feel unsafe, a DPS employee will walk with you on campus.

GVPD offers the free Laker Guardian App – an emergency call button immediately alerts GVPD to the user’s location.

We care about your entire well-being, including the way you are feeling and coping with any stressors. For mental health needs, consider taking a free and confidential personal mental health screening. As always, the University Counseling Center is available to students, and Encompass is available to faculty and staff members. 

Lakers watch out for each other and care for each other. Our goal is to move through this semester safely, celebrating that our collective efforts make a difference. Together, we can create a community that is safe and provides the conditions where we can grow as learners and leaders. Thank you for all you are doing to make Grand Valley State University a vibrant academic community and home. 

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Laker Family,

Our Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan asks us to think urgently about our future. Are our neighbors empowered to learn and grow? Is our work sustainably rooted in community? Will our efforts produce a more just and equitable world? The Heart of West Michigan United Way has been asking these types of important questions for more than 100 years. While the answers may be complicated, they are embedded in our community coming together to build a safe, strong, and stable West Michigan.

Our annual faculty and staff United Way campaign is an opportunity to demonstrate what we mean when we say we’re reaching higher. Your support will allow the United Way to impact our community by:

  • Meeting our community’s immediate needs like food and shelter while building toward long-term solutions like family stability, financial security, and youth education.
  • Keeping all contributions local by funding 48 programs at 40 area nonprofits.

 

I believe United Way makes a difference in the lives of our neighbors, coworkers, and friends. United Way provides donors with confidence by scoring a perfect 100/100, 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. I would like to invite you to join me in making a contribution and making a difference for our community. You can learn more about how to give by clicking the button below. Thank you for reaching higher by living united.

Learn More & Give

Respectfully,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Faculty and Staff,

On Friday I was honored to receive an extension of my contract from the Board of Trustees. I recognize this vote of confidence as one I share with all of you as an affirmation of our work together. The board’s action endorses our vigilance to build the future on our rich history and long-standing commitment to students and community. It provides us clarity and continuity as we work to fulfill our commitments of empowering learning, enabling lifetime learning and assuring a culture of educational equity.

When I was installed as your President in 2019, I said: “Our state and our nation need Grand Valley to seize the new reality that allows a university in Michigan to be a 'breakout university’ asserting its entrepreneurial spirit, its history of being agile, fearless and changing to meet new demands… hungry to shape education to adapt to learning styles and life paths that are as numerous as individuals are different.” I believe this even more today as we live with the residue of a global crisis.

Your belief in this work to transform lives and communities is what brought me to Grand Valley and continues to drive me each day. Your support has helped me find the resolve I needed during trying times. I am proud to stand with each of you as we build Grand Valley’s future.  As I told the board Friday, this expression of trust is a contrarian move in a world that today is littered with distrust and disruption. It demonstrates once again that GVSU forges its own path, always aware of its responsibilities to serve not only today’s students but generations to come.

 

Thank you for believing in me -- believing in us -- and for being vigorous advocates for the mission of Grand Valley State University and the pursuits, professions, and purpose of every student we serve.

 

With sincere gratitude,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear GVSU Community,

As we enter this season of thankfulness, we must not look past the acts of violence that are dominating the news and perhaps our thoughts this week. The senseless killings over the past week of college students at the University of Idaho and University of Virginia and people at Club Q in Colorado Springs, a safe space for the LGBTQ community, dominate the news and weigh heavy on our hearts. Even here at GVSU, in Allendale and in Grand Rapids, we have seen incidents of violence that create fear and anxiety for our community. Violence across our country continues to rise and our nation continues to struggle to address it.

As we approach the holiday, I hope we each pause to appreciate all those things for which we are thankful. I hope and pray that as you take time to reflect and be grateful, you are surrounded in safety and by those you love. However, today we must also acknowledge the lives of so many lost, the grief felt by their friends and family, and the pain our communities share with every life taken or damaged by an act of violence.

Please know how thankful I am for our Laker community and that I will continue to work to do whatever I can to create peace and safety for all our students, faculty and staff. We could become complacent, numb to the number and reach of the acts of hatred and violence across our country and here in our backyard. I believe we must acknowledge these actions and do what we can in our own lives to stop it. Let’s continue to be a community that cares for one another and stands together in solidarity affirming there is no more room for intolerance or violence in our world.

The Grand Valley community is ready to assist those of you looking for help or simply someone to talk to. The University Counseling Center is available for appointments online, or by phone (616) 331-3266. The Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center in the Kirkhof Center also offers a welcoming and inclusive environment for people of all gender identities, gender presentations, and sexual orientations. Stop in between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. or call (616) 331-2530. Staff in the LGBT Center will also provide care spaces for all impacted tomorrow from noon to 2 p.m. and all are invited to join a previously scheduled event tonight – Fall Friend Meet-up – for folks to find togetherness and safety over the holiday.

May peace be with you and your loved ones.

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Spring/Summer 2022

Dear GVSU Community,

Today, the flags on all GVSU campuses were moved to half-staff to mark respect for Texas's elementary school shooting victims. It is a symbolic acknowledgment of the horrific killing of innocent children and educators that requires our attention and action as leaders in advancing important national conversations. Our hearts break for the families touched by this tragedy. As a parent, I cannot imagine sending my children off to school, never to see them again. As an institution committed to inquiry, civic dialogue, and common understanding, we must embrace our role to engage in tough conversations around common-sense gun reform, violence prevention, and systemic inequities.

It cannot be ignored that the tragedy in Texas occurred in a predominantly Latino community, just as the devastating racially motivated violence in Buffalo last week occurred in a Black community. We must support our communities of color and all who are experiencing pain and hurting while contributing to the national dialogue that moves us to honor each of the lives lost with concerted action.

We are committed to continuing our own campus safety as we learn from and work to prevent these unimaginable situations. Our university resources and services remain available for each of you, even during the summer. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need support. We are always here for you.

  • Counseling Center:  For personal support, we encourage students to utilize the  GVSU Counseling Center.  
  • CARE:  The CARE Team consists of staff who support students through challenges they may experience. Referrals may be made online at www.gvsu.edu/care.
  • Encompass:  The Employee Assistance Program, Encompass, is available to help with confidential and professional mental health resources for employees and family members. Reach out for personalized support at (800) 788-8630.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
 
Sunday, June 19, is Juneteenth, considered the oldest recognized Black American holiday in the United States. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the U.S. and is significant in that it came more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which legally abolished slavery.
 
Slavery ended over 150 years ago, and we celebrate this important legal shift in our history. Yet, we have much work to do to embody a country and a university community that is fully acting on the premise that all are and should be provided equitable access and opportunity to a safe community, a high-quality education, and an inclusive economy.
 
Reach Higher 2025 commits us to building a culture of equity and embracing our role as a leader in urgently advancing equity for all learners and eliminating disparities. Therefore, as we approach Juneteenth, I remind you of my 2020 call to collective awareness and action, following the killing of George Floyd, and the university’s creation of the Network of Advisors for Racial Equity. We must continue to elevate the voices and experiences of our Black students, faculty, and staff.
 
I encourage all of us to spend some time to both reflect and learn, whether in the office or in the community. Many events are occurring across the region and online. For some, this will be a time of self-care. For others, it will be a time to learn more deeply, and for many, it will be a time for both.
 
Thank you for pausing to remember where we have been and the work we have yet to do. And thank you for being a part of our ongoing commitment to advance inclusion and equity at Grand Valley.
 
Sincerely,
 
Philomena V. Mantella
President

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I hope this greeting finds you rested and recharged, and you are enjoying our beautiful Michigan summer. I want to extend a warm welcome to those of you who are new to Grand Valley. The start of the academic year always brings renewed energy along with the promise of new discoveries and new experiences! The steady stream of those returning to campus and the sounds of the Laker Marching Band filling the air let us know it is time for the rites of fall to begin. I am grateful for all of you and your work that brings us to this day.  

I hope you plan to join us for the Faculty/Staff Fall Kickoff that will be held outside under a tent Tuesday, August 23, at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus. This year, there will be a University Address at 4:30 p.m. I look forward to speaking with all of you, and I will be joined by the Senior Leadership Team and our Chair of the Faculty Senate. We will formally welcome to campus our new Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Fatma Mili and our new Vice President and Chief Public Affairs and Communications Officer Stacie R. Behler. Our Faculty/Staff picnic will follow the remarks. Please respond online with your attendance plans if you have not already done so.

We will welcome more than 170 new faculty and staff members to our community, including our new dean of the College of Health Professions, Ning “Jackie” Zhang. We saw the impact of the pandemic’s “great resignation,” but these strong hires ensure superior educational experiences for our students and support for our campus operations. I am pleased to also report that the diversity of our new employees reflects our commitment to inclusion, as more than a quarter of our newly hired employees are people of color. Along with these new faces, we are deeply grateful to all our continuing faculty and staff whose dedication last year and throughout the summer ensures the vitality of our community. 

We welcome the routine of familiar traditions and gatherings to begin our year. Our Fall Convocation, the time-honored tradition welcoming our new students, will kick off the Transitions orientation program this year. It will be held Wednesday, August 24, at 7:30 p.m., in the Fieldhouse Arena on the Allendale Campus. All faculty and staff are invited to join the ceremony. Those who plan to process and wear regalia at Convocation must complete the response form by August 17. 

Much has happened over the summer to reinforce the importance of our mission. On August 9, we celebrated Shape Corp.’s lead gift and longstanding commitment to our engineering students by naming the Innovation Design Center on Winter Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids after the tier-one automotive supplier. In June, we received a $1.4 million grant to establish a TRIO program in Detroit to serve would-be first-generation students, expanding our opportunity to expose students to GVSU and the goal of a college degree. We have completed the upgrade of six more classrooms on our campuses, working with our faculty to create enhanced active learning environments. This is the second installation in our ongoing conversions through 2025. The New Music Ensemble has returned to Michigan after exposing the country to its talent. The ensemble received its fourth National Endowment for the Arts grant to support another summer national parks tour. We successfully advocated for an increased state budget allocation, which begins to address the low per-student funding that is structural to the budget process. There is more work to do here, but we are encouraged by the outcome. These few examples are illustrative of our profound impact in so many areas. Of course, all summer we have hosted, advised, and oriented our new and returning Lakers, and we look forward to their arrival in full force. 

I am very proud of the effect we have and the support we receive. The private donors who invest with us, the increase in state support this year and our own strong fiscal management allowed our Board of Trustees to pass the lowest tuition increase of any of Michigan’s four-year public universities. We also were able to put $70 million into financial aid that will directly support our students and demonstrate our commitment to access and affordability.

We continue to Reach Higher together. New students continue to be drawn to our community and our empowering student experience. We are looking forward to welcoming a talented and diverse new class. They are our reason for being, so I encourage each of us to be a part of the joy of creating a sense of belonging that extends a lifetime.  

We have much to look forward to this year. Thank you for being part of the GVSU community. In the coming weeks you will receive a note from me and a memento to kick-off the first year of Reach Higher 2025. RH2025 is more than rhetoric; it expresses what is core to who we are as a Laker community. Be on the lookout for this intercampus mail. 

My best wishes to all of you for the year ahead! 

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Winter 2022

Dear Campus Community,
 
Happy New Year to all as we ready the campuses for resumption of classes on January 10. I'm writing to confirm our operational plans for the semester. We will resume face-to-face instruction next week along with dining, housing, and student life activities. This is the delivery model that the vast majority of our students prefer. Last Fall semester, by working together and following our Lakers Together health plan, we succeeded in safely conducting in-person activities. I am grateful that the work of many made this possible and am confident we can do it again. However, the presence of the Covid Omicron variant requires that we make adjustments to support safe operations. That means we will move to Level 3, as described in our plan, with certain modifications. My thanks to the faculty and staff who have provided their advice and counsel.
 
The vaccine mandate remains in effect – all faculty, staff, and students must be vaccinated or have received an exemption or postponement. Boosters are strongly recommended; the university will issue individual reminders as people become eligible. Regular testing is required for anyone not vaccinated. Face coverings are required indoors in all GVSU facilities. We expect and will monitor for rigorous compliance with all requirements.
 
Classes will be delivered as presently scheduled. Face coverings are required in living centers but not in one’s individual room.  Students living on campus and their guests must mask and social distance in public spaces. Should an outbreak occur in a specific residence hall, guests will not be permitted.
 
Campus dining venues will be open for grab-and-go service and socially distanced congregate dining where space allows for it. Some campus activities will move from in-person to remote delivery. NCAA athletic events will continue consistent with player safety. Spectators are encouraged to be vaccinated, and they will need to complete self-assessment and be compliant with mask requirements. Event attendance will be limited.  
 
Please review Lakers Together to be sure you are up to date on campus operations and requirements. The online FAQs address general issues while specific questions can be directed to the Call Center at 616.331.4636. We have obligations – to each other and to ourselves – to follow all safety protocols.
 
I know we can have another safe and successful semester.  Best wishes for an exciting and rewarding 2022.
 
Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
It is with deep sadness I inform you that the body believed to be that of our student Brendan Santo has been found in the Red Cedar River in East Lansing. Dive crews from various police departments had been searching the river since Brendan went missing on October 29 while visiting the Michigan State University campus.
 
Our university role at this time is to support Brendan’s family, roommates, professors and friends. The death of any student in our community is painful and distressing. Staff members from the Division of Student Affairs, including Housing and Residence Life and University Counseling, are available to support any student in need.
 
Our thoughts and prayers continue for Brendan’s family and friends as they deal with this tragic loss.
 
Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

Today is an exciting moment in Grand Valley State University’s history. We are called upon to lead GVSU to go forward with courage, and we are now positioned to do so. The Board of Trustees today approved our Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan at its board meeting held on the Allendale Campus. This followed endorsements by the University Academic Senate, the Student Senate and the Administrative Professional Committee. We started this journey committed to reaching higher together, and thanks to all of you, we have a shared vision on how to tackle the challenges and complexities we face.

I am appreciative for the hundreds of you who shared a comment, came to a meeting, offered direction and wrestled with just the right words that capture the heart and soul of GVSU and its mission, vision and values. We are capitalizing on our strong liberal education base and our role as a talent producer in all fields. We are positioning GVSU as an institution dedicated to equity and systemic change. The three commitments in the plan for an empowered educational experience, a lifetime of learning and a culture of educational equity depend on you and will serve you.

A special thanks to the Reach Higher 2025 steering committee’s three co-chairs: Mark Schaub, dean of Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies; Janet Winter, associate dean of Kirkhof College of Nursing; and Tara Bivens, senior benefits manager in Human Resources. You can hear some of the committee members featured in this video talking about moving ahead boldly for those we serve.

We are building on our strengths, so we can attract accomplished scholars and students who will contribute to the vitality of the region and their communities.

Thank you for reaching higher. What we can do together is just beginning.

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

On behalf of the entire Grand Valley State University community, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of Ukraine and all those impacted by the tragic violence we are watching unfold.

The university has been actively working to reach out and offer support to international members of our community we know are from Ukraine and Russia, including alumni. While we are not aware of any current student or employee studying or working in Ukraine, one international student is currently enrolled in online courses living in Russia. We also know members of our community previously lived, grew up, or currently have family and other loved ones in the region.

The devastation and senseless loss of life reminds each of us about the importance of our shared humanity and compassion for all impacted. We can also support those closest to us.

We stand together as a community to provide support however you may be experiencing this global tragedy, and we will continue to be responsive to local and global needs, sensitive to the shifting dynamics of war. Here is a reminder of some of the resources available to members of our community:

  • The Padnos International Center supports international students and scholars.
  • The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions.
  • The CARE Team consists of staff who support students through challenges they may experience. Referrals may be made at online at www.gvsu.edu/care.
  • The Military and Veterans Resource Center offers supports for service members, veterans, and their families.
  • The Office of Multicultural Affairs will be providing community support space in the OMA lobby (1240 KC) over the next two weeks - March 2-4 and March 7-11 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (with additional dates as needed).
  • The Employee Assistance Program, Encompass, is available to help with confidential and professional mental health resources for employees and family members. Reach out for personalized support at (800) 788-8630, or schedule a meeting with Gary Atkins, GVSU’s work life consultant and a clinician at Encompass.
  • The Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center provides a number of services and support for promoting faculty well-being and responding to critical incidents with students.
  • Many of our offices and units will continue to offer educational conversations and events. Please refer to the university events calendar often for more information.

As you take care of yourselves and offer support to one another, we collectively hold onto hope for peace.

Dear GVSU Faculty and Staff,

Last fall, I wrote to inform you of staffing changes in our Title IX office and shared my intention to undertake an independent review of that office and how continuity of service had been managed. The review process allowed for input from anyone with concerns, as well as opportunities for ECS and UAS to weigh in and engage directly with the reviewers, Kristine Zayko and Joy Gaslevic, Title IX experts from the Husch Blackwell Higher Education Team.

That review is now complete. It found substantive compliance with Title IX procedures while making recommendations for process improvements, including those that assure continuity during staff transitions. Many of the recommended improvements have already been implemented and others, which require community and stakeholder input, are underway. To assure cycles of continuous improvement, regulatory alignment, and consistency with my past practice, I have asked General Counsel Pat Smith to plan for another external review in Winter 2023. More information is provided on the General Counsel website.

I am confident the administrators who provide oversight for the Office for Title IX and Institutional Equity, Vice President Jesse Bernal and Director Kevin Carmody, always welcome feedback and engagement. I encourage any member of the faculty or staff to be in contact with Dr. Bernal or Mr. Carmody directly should you have further questions.

I want to thank those in the Division of Inclusion and Equity, Office for Title IX and Institutional Equity, Office of General Counsel, University Academic Senate and Executive Committee of the Senate, UAS/ECS Chair Felix Ngassa, and Interim Provost Chris Plouff for joining with me to demonstrate our commitment and action around Title IX. Its intent and our purpose is to keep our community respectful and safe.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear GVSU Faculty and Staff,

It is with deep gratitude for an amazing tenure and dedication to our university I share with you that Vice President for University Relations and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Matt McLogan has announced his intention to retire from Grand Valley State University. After nearly 35 years of service to our great community, Matt will retire June 30, 2022.
 
Matt has accomplished much in his long career at Grand Valley with his steady leadership of our marketing and communications units, WGVU television and radio, and using his incredible knowledge of government relations to further the success of GVSU. At one time, he also supervised our development efforts and alumni relations. He has been a pillar of the local community and in state government for more than four decades – first in broadcast journalism and then as Michigan Public Service Commissioner. He has been an officer of the university, serving as a vice president since he was hired by then-President Arend D. Lubbers in 1987. Matt has been instrumental in taking GVSU from an institution of fewer than 9,000 students to the regional force we are today. He was often working behind the scenes securing our place on the Medical Mile and pushing key initiatives with our state and congressional lawmakers. Our successes would not have been possible without his institutional knowledge, his keen political acumen and his unwavering loyalty to our university. Matt stepped into the additional role of secretary to the Board of Trustees in 2019. His measured presence and political knowhow have strengthened Grand Valley’s relationships with local, state, and federal elected officials and government leaders and positioned us well for the future.

Personally, as the Board liaison, he was the first person I met at Grand Valley, and I have valued enormously his good counsel, friendship and strong encouragement and support. He is a wise man, always looking to show the university and its faculty, staff and students in the best light. He has been a good and faithful servant and steward of the investments made in this community. Matt will be sorely missed.
 
The sensitivity of his role and the time Matt afforded me in planning his retirement, and more importantly his successor, enabled me to evaluate candidates to replace him on our Senior Leadership Team. I reviewed options with the SLT and an advisory committee with these members: Chair of Executive Committee of the Academic Senate & Professor of Chemistry Felix Ngassa, Dean of the Seidman College of Business Diana Lawson, Dean of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing Paul Plotkowski, Vice Provost for Graduate and Lifetime Learning Kara Van Dam, and Project Specialist for Presidential Initiatives and Board Relations Cori Kahler. I am confident of our choice and plan to announce Grand Valley’s new vice president next week.
 
It has been our gift to serve with Matt on behalf of the university’s mission. We are enormously grateful for Matt’s steadfast service to our community and all we serve. Please join me in congratulating Matt for his many years of service. We will find the right opportunity to come together to let him know of our gratitude for the legacy he has left and the groundwork he has helped lay for our future.   
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear GVSU Community,
 
I am writing to you following the recent police shooting in the city of Grand Rapids that resulted in the death of 26-year-old resident Patrick Lyoya, a Congolese refugee. The loss of such a young life is heartbreaking, and my prayers go out to Patrick’s family and loved ones. But I know the incident affects all of us.
 
While the video of the incident has not been released to the public, the killing of a Black person by law enforcement raises important issues. It triggers pain and trauma broadly, but especially in the Black community, as a result of both historic and contemporary racism and inequity.
 
In the days to come, law enforcement will release the video, and it likely will be difficult to watch. It may prompt a range of emotions - anger, sadness, trauma, shock, fear, sadness, grief, helplessness, distrust, guilt - all of which require us to come together as a community to support each other, while elevating the voices and experiences of our Black students, faculty and staff. This is especially important given the proximity of this incident to our campuses.
 
As a university, our first priority is to provide comfort and support for those most closely impacted. Additionally, we want to create room for greater education and dialogue and to continue our own anti-racism work. To help us achieve our goals, we are offering the following:

  • Support and Dialogue: On Wednesdays, April 13, 20, and 27, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., in 1240 Kirkhof Center, the Office of Multicultural Affairs staff will create an opportunity for the community to gather for support and dialogue to better understand the impact of incidents like these on the Black community. OMA is also hosting a “Conversations of Color” program on Wednesday, April 20, from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. in 2266 Kirkhof Center to provide an educational space for this unfolding situation.
  • Black students, faculty and staff sharing space with administrators: We have committed to providing opportunities for conversation, connection and support for our Black students. We will again offer this space, while also welcoming Black faculty and staff who would like to join university administrators, virtually. Zoom information will be shared soon.
  • Counseling Center & CARE: For personal support, we encourage students to utilize the GVSU Counseling Center. In the aftermath of experiencing or witnessing racial injustice and violence, one can experience a range of feelings and emotions. The counseling center also recognizes the racial trauma that specifically can occur and has created dedicated resources to support our Black students. The CARE Team consists of staff who support students through challenges they may experience. Referrals may be made online at www.gvsu.edu/care.
  • Support for employees: The Employee Assistance Program, Encompass, is available to help with confidential and professional mental health resources for employees and family members. Reach out for personalized support at (800) 788-8630, or schedule a meeting with Gary Atkins, GVSU’s work life consultant and a clinician at Encompass.
  • Network of Advisors for Racial Justice: Commitments and recommendations from the Network have been and continue to be acted on by the administration. Implementation teams are being activated through the summer to continue the important work to make our university a more inclusive and equitable community. We will continue to provide updates at www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/action.

We also recognize our own role and responsibility in the training of law enforcement through our criminal justice programs, as well as our police academy. The Grand Valley Police Department and our academic leaders in criminal justice, along with the entire administration, are committed to ensuring we continue to strengthen our community-based practices and anti-bias education as part of our ongoing effort to combat systemic racism. We must engage our entire community in this important work.
 
The lives of Black students, faculty and staff matter to Grand Valley State University, and I remain hopeful that we can address structural inequity on our campus, in our communities, and across our country and world.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
The university’s leadership team and I are carefully monitoring developments surrounding today’s announcement by the Grand Rapids Police Department, and its release of bodycam and other videos tied to the shooting and death of Patrick Lyoya. Like many of you, I watched the video of the tragic killing. I experienced waves of shock, sadness, anger, and pain in seeing this event unfold. The video is deeply disturbing and difficult to watch, so I urge caution for anyone who decides to view it. I know the investigations from the Michigan State Police and the Kent County Prosecutor are yet to come, but today, in the here and now, we must address the tragedy of this incident. I fully understand that this development profoundly impacts our community. This is a difficult time in the history of Grand Rapids. My heart breaks for our community and goes out particularly to our Black and international communities.
 
As I mentioned yesterday, my priority is care and concern for you. I urge every member of our community to listen, provide space, act with empathy and be ready to support one another. Yesterday, I shared several resources and opportunities. Those are listed at https://www.gvsu.edu/president/messages. I hope you take advantage of any you may need. We will continue to work together to provide discussion, support spaces and other services to assist.
 
A tragedy of this magnitude will be a journey of important discussions around reform and justice and will be with us for some time. I ask you watch for university messages as our mindset will be on your well-being and supports will evolve, as necessary.  Activities may take place in different areas of the city. I ask that if you choose to participate, you do so peacefully and safely.
 
In addition, given the events of today, our senior administration along with counseling and campus ministry support services will be holding reflection spaces this evening on both the Allendale and Pew campuses to support one another. Feel free to join us soon either in Allendale or Grand Rapids.

  • Allendale Campus: Cook-DeWitt Center at 5:30 p.m. tonight
  • Grand Rapids: Seidman College of Business, Loosemore Forum (side B) at 5:30 p.m. tonight

Sincerely,
Philomena Mantella, President

Fall 2021

Dear Campus Community,

We are pleased to report the Laker health and safety plan for Fall semester continues to be successful. More than 90 percent of our faculty and staff and nearly 87 percent of students are in compliance with our vaccination policy. This means they are vaccinated, have a religious or medical exemption or a postponement. This wide acceptance has been key in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and keeping the number of cases low on our campuses. All of us must continue to be vigilant in maintaining healthy practices and wear face coverings while indoors, so we can keep each other safe. We should all be pleased that GVSU’s positivity rate is significantly lower than that of the communities that surround our campuses.

As our September 30 vaccine requirement deadline approaches, we continue to evaluate and record compliances; process remaining requests for exemptions, appeals or postponements; and review recent state legislation. If you have not reported your vaccination status on your self-assessment or applied for an exemption or postponement, you must do so in the next few days to be in compliance with the vaccination requirement for faculty, staff and students. Please avoid disruptions and act now.  

We will provide a status report to the campus community next week, along with any updates to our policies, deadlines and enforcement plans. Please keep up to date by checking the FAQ’s on Lakers Together

We have made enormous progress, and I am grateful to each of you for your care for each other. Let’s continue working together as Lakers.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

It is with great sadness that I inform you that one of our students died overnight. Taleah Lowe was a first-year student who had already made an impact on campus. We wish to respect her family by honoring their privacy, while at the same time acknowledging how difficult this news is, especially for those who knew Taleah. I want to offer my deepest sympathies to her family, friends and faculty.

The death of one of our students is painful and distressing. We are offering support from staff members of Housing and Residential Life, and the University Counseling Center has staff members available to assist those who are grieving or who need any type of counseling. I want to especially encourage those who might feel discomfort to take advantage of the many programs we have available.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with family and friends now and in the weeks to come.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Faculty and Staff colleagues,

Since I arrived in 2019, I have had hundreds of valued conversations with faculty, staff, students and community members exploring the essence, vibrance and strengths of our university. Areas of opportunity and improvement were also offered and explored openly. I am grateful to so many of you who are excited to engage around our future. I appreciate our University Academic Senate, the Student Senate, the Graduate Student Association leadership, Network of Advisors for Racial Justice, Alumni Board, our AP Committee, and others for your thoughtful discussions throughout the Reach Higher 2025 planning process. I am proud of our work together through the most tumultuous time in our history, and I remain fiercely optimistic about our future.

A time for deeper engagement

This year the RH2025 steering committee led a community engagement process to refine our mission, vision, values and strategic priorities for the next four years. The approach to this plan is a simple but profound framework allowing plenty of room for faculty, staff, colleges, and units to determine how they best embody its direction.

I want to thank the steering committee for their tireless work and all who contributed to sharpening the plan, which has become stronger with each iteration. I recognize it has been challenging to fit this into our busy COVID-disrupted lives but am heartened we chose to proceed given the reality of a completed plan and a disrupted higher education landscape. Thousands of community members have engaged in the planning process to date. That said, some still have questions on the plan and the intentions of the administration. Thus, it is incumbent on us to clarify the questions, seek shared meaning, and invite full participation in our future. To that end we will extend the time for further discussion another three months, delaying RH2025 presentation to our Board of Trustees from November to February.   

I will establish conversation opportunities throughout the remaining academic year with me and members of the senior leadership team. You are invited to sign up for a Leadership Conversation  particularly, if you have questions and concerns. There will be no presentations just listening and exploring. If the times offered fill quickly, I will be pleased to add more dates. In addition to these conversations, the steering committee is contemplating how best to use our extension of time to complete the work of RH2025. Please watch for those opportunities as well.

To guide our path forward

I would like to offer my own views regarding our future and as always, I will continue to shape them with deep listening and continued conversations. From its founding, Grand Valley State University has differentiated itself as an institution that is rooted in its tradition but agile and evolving with the times. This chapter of GVSU is no different, albeit the challenges of today are among the greatest of our time. We have experienced massive disruptions in our lives, the economy and our education systems. In addition, we are facing a tsunami of shifts in demographics, technology, political and social context. We hear and understand a public call for relevance, affordability, and access for those excluded or underserved by the U.S. system of education. There is also a call for education to serve with a level of flexibility commensurate to the complexity of our lives.

Colleagues, through RH2025 we reinforce our belief that liberal education is fundamental to navigating the world around us. We embrace an opportunity to invite students to have a stronger place in our education, going beyond the student-centered language used at so many other universities. We acknowledge and celebrate the breadth of our professional education and the power of integrating liberal education and experiential learning within it to ready students for life and career. We celebrate our work as a catalyst for economic development of our region and enterprises around us. 

RH2025 remains grounded in liberal education, our residential experience and our student-centered ethos, while also acknowledging professional education and lifelong learning are integral to who we are and for the needs of our times. I have heard on numerous occasions people represent my interest as evolving GVSU to a fully online university. Frankly, I have never expressed this, and it is not my expressed or implied intention. I embrace with great excitement new approaches to high-impact learning, new modalities, and new audiences but to supplement not supplant the GVSU we know and love.   

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must end the practice of higher education as an exclusionary pursuit. As a public institution, GVSU through its RH 2025 commitments must welcome those with aptitude, interest, readiness, and willingness to receive postsecondary education. It calls us to ensure we have the supports in place that bridge the profoundly disturbing equity gaps in college success. 

Again, my views are continuously informed and shaped by you. Join a Leadership Conversation  to continue the dialogue or engage with the RH2025 team. I value the collaborative working relationship between faculty, staff, students, and administration, which is key to our shared governance. I’m grateful for your passion and care as we steward the university through the challenges of today and the promises of tomorrow. Thank you for all you do for Grand Valley. I look forward to many more rich conversations with you as we shape, launch, and empower RH2025.  

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

It is with deep sadness I share the news that Katelyn Nylund, a sophomore from Midland, died in a vehicle crash Thursday afternoon, just south of campus. Katelyn was a geology major and active in several student organizations. The Dean of Students Office and University Counseling staff are engaged with Katelyn’s roommate and family to provide support and assistance. 

It is heartbreaking that within a week, we lost two promising lives. Be kind to yourself and others as we grieve together. Resources are available from the University Counseling Center, and for faculty and staff, from Encompass

Share, listen and stay in touch with those close to you, give and take help as needed. Let’s care for each other, fellow Lakers.  

 

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

As the search for GVSU first-year student Brendan Santo continues without many answers, I want to unite our community by expressing our overwhelming concern and sharing the role of our university in this very troubling period.

Many of you know that Brendan went to visit friends at Michigan State University and was last seen just before midnight October 29. The Michigan State University Police and Public Safety unit is leading the investigation, which has focused on the Red Cedar River on the MSU campus. The Grand Valley Police Department is part of an enhanced investigative partnership of local, state and federal agencies formed to find Brendan as the search stretches through a second week.

Our Grand Valley role is to support as best we can Brendan’s family, roommates, professors and friends. We remain in touch with his parents offering university resources and support as they bear the tremendous burden of this heartbreaking situation.

Despite everyone’s best efforts, Brendan is still missing. Anyone with information should call the MSU Police and Public Safety tip line at 844-99-MSUPD or email [email protected]. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by texting the word MSUPD, along with your message, to 274637.

Our university community must respect the family during this worrisome time and channel our care and concern to support those closest to Brendan and those involved in the daily search to find him. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President


Dear Campus Community,

The horrific shooting at Oxford High School has broken our hearts and troubled our minds. This senseless violence produced three deaths, eight serious injuries and inflicted untold emotional damage on the Oxford community. The collateral impact is immeasurable and extends to Grand Valley and beyond.

Grand Valley currently holds 82 graduates of Oxford High as fellow Lakers and perhaps countless more with close connections. Yesterday afternoon, we reached out to those we are aware of with offers of counseling and service. Roommates, classmates, faculty and staff, you are in a special position to be alert to crisis, offer help, compassion, and make a CARE referral to Student Affairs staff, if indicated. We’ve also reached out to the Oxford School superintendent with offers of assistance, as well as some of our Laker alumni who work within the district.

Lakers live in a robust culture of care, compassion and devotion to the well-being of one another, here and in our larger communities. In the face of an event so devastating to our state and those around us, let’s live into those values and extend our support to those impacted.  

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

As we are ending the semester, I write to you with many thoughts and emotions about what we have all experienced together, and what individuals experience alone. We have had collective challenges, like the pandemic, and we have had personal tragedies. While we are proud of our campus safety, we are a large university community, and this semester we have suffered accidents, medical events and mental health concerns. We are affected by the losses, the pressure of the pandemic, and the loads we carry into the end of the calendar year.  Some of us may need additional support.

My main message to you is that you are an important member of our campus community, and we care about you. In addition to your family and friends, there are many professional resources available to you, and I want to make sure you know about them. If you live on campus, your RA and other Housing and Residence Life staff are a good source of support, and they are connected to additional resources on campus.

If you need a professional, caring person to connect with, here are some helpful options:

Today on Campus:

  • The University Counseling Center is providing urgent drop-in hours from 3:00-5:00pm.
  • Utilize an online GVSU care report for self or other impacted students to receive support from a Care team member.
  • See the University Counseling Center’s online trauma and self-care information. Many students find that engaging in the provided self-care tips gives the support they need.

24/7 local and national hotlines for assistance anywhere:

Ottawa County Local Helpline 24-Hr. Emergency Assistance :

  • Grand Haven: (616) 842-4537 
  • Holland: (616) 396-4357
  • For all other Ottawa County areas: call toll-free 1-866-512-4357

Kent County Network 180 24-Hr. Access Line:   (616) 336-3909

National Suicide Prevention Line & Crisis Chat : 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line : Text 741741

You are not alone. We are a community, and each member is important. Care for others and care for yourself – Lakers helping Lakers.

Warm regards,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
It is with deep sorrow I share with you that we lost our student Quentin “Quinn” Campbell this past week. He died by suicide on Thursday. I fully understand that in our grief many question why information was not released to the community sooner, but our first responsibility is always to the families involved in tragic circumstances. We need to understand their wishes first, and offer any support we can in these deeply painful circumstances.  
 
Acting Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Aaron Haight has been working closely with the family, and we both spoke with Quinn’s mother this morning to ask how best we can support the family moving forward. She asked us to share the visitation and funeral information and to invite all who knew and loved Quinn to attend: 
https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/name/quentin-campbell-obituary?id=31845109.

Students who wish to go to the visitation on Friday, but have a conflict with final exams or need other assistance may reach out to the Dean of Students Office for help. 
 
The loss of Quinn comes after other losses and tragedies in our community this semester. We are a large community with many members, but each one is important to us. We feel each loss deeply and need to support one another in our grief. The safety and wellness of our GVSU family throughout the pandemic and beyond has been my highest priority, and we will continue to be vigilant on all matters of community care.
 
The Dean of Students OfficeUniversity CounselingOffice of Student Life, and Housing and Residence Life continue to work with students impacted. If you or anyone you know is struggling, please reach out by submitting a care referral at https://www.gvsu.edu/care/.  
 
The safety, health and wellness of all of our campus community members is a priority, and we will continue to take measures and provide resources to ensure this.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Faculty & Staff:
 
I’m delighted to share with you that Grand Valley is expanding its parental leave benefit, effective January 1, 2022. It’s clear that paid parental leave – first and foremost – has a positive impact on children and families. This benefit enhancement will assist departments in recruiting and retaining exceptional faculty and staff as GVSU keeps an attractive and competitive benefit package among our peers in higher education.
 
Details of the program are available from Human Resources, but in summary, we are expanding the benefit to include leave for all parents. Parental leave will now include non-medical leave so that both parents in the family are able to bond with a new child. Adoptive parents and guardians are eligible. See: http://www.gvsu.edu/hro/time-offleaves-122.htm.
 
This benefit has been discussed within our campus community and I want to acknowledge Faculty Senate, the Administrative Professional Committee, the Women’s Commission and others who made constructive suggestions. I am pleased we are able to move forward with it at this time and hope you agree that this development makes Grand Valley an even better place to work.
 
With best wishes for holidays and the New Year, 

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Spring/Summer 2021

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great concern and sadness that I write to acknowledge and bring attention to the devastating and dire circumstances India faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to conservative estimates, over 3,600 people a day are dying and healthcare essentials are not available to most.

Grand Valley is home to many Indian and Indian American students, faculty, and staff. Our colleagues and students are not only facing personal and local stress and fatigue in the United States, but also managing the impact on families and loss abroad. Our thoughts and support are with all those impacted.

This must be another moment of reflection for our community. Not only must we recognize the privileges and opportunities we have with vaccination and healthcare access, but we must also be mindful of the exponential impact of the pandemic on our diverse communities. Learn more about how you can do your part at www.gvsu.edu/lakerstogether.

As always, we are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. The University Counseling Center offers support for students and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. TheAsian Faculty and Staff Association is also a resource for community support.

Please continue to care for one another in these trying circumstances. We will get through this together.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear GVSU Colleagues,
 
The mood has shifted and the energy is growing. The state of Michigan joins the rest of the country in easing restrictions as the COVID vaccine allows our day-to-day lives to feel more normal. The cases on campus are nearly non-existent, and we are more than ready for a full and robust Fall semester. Our classrooms will be at normal capacity, and the campus will again be filled with students reaching their goals and faculty and staff serving our mission. Our message to students and their families is clear – We’re Ready for You. We want our students to understand that Grand Valley State University stands ready to welcome them back to a community that is together again and dedicated to their success.
 
Returning to Community
 
As we prepare for our Fall semester, we are actively transitioning to more people working on campus from now until the start of the academic year, August 6. That date is when the COVID-19 remote work requests will end. Faculty are expected to be available for activities associated with the start of the semester, and staff, who have been working remotely, are encouraged to gradually increase their time working on campus prior to August 6. Employees should consult with their supervisor or department head for specific directions on the transition back to campus. We understand individuals may have concerns about coming back to campus, and the Human Resources office stands ready to provide additional support as needed. More details are available in the Return to Community document. 
 
Successful Fall
 
The key to a successful fall requires us to follow health guidance. The university’s current policies are updated on our Lakers Together site. Vaccines are an integral part of our plan. Nearly 80 percent of our faculty and staff are vaccinated, and a growing number of students have reported at least one dose on their daily self-assessment. In order to encourage even more students to get vaccinated, the Virus Action Team this week notified them of an incentive program to get vaccinated by the end of July. We will continue to monitor all factors to keep our campus community as safe as possible, while we enjoy the opportunities available to us this year, that we missed so much last year.
 
Let me close by saying how grateful I am for the success we share in facing challenges together and the promise of what is now available for us to achieve! We have shown what it means to be Lakers Together.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Colleagues,

The Grand Valley State University community must always examine what keeps us true to our strong and vibrant student experience, both inside and outside the classroom. It is fundamental to who we are. This examination is particularly critical at this moment when we are processing the lessons from the COVD-19 pandemic, returning to more in-person experiences, and doubling down on our learner-centered ethos in Reach Higher 2025.

To fully understand our practices and structures within Grand Valley and at peer institutions, earlier this year Provost Maria Cimitile and I commissioned an external review of student affairs led by a seasoned student affairs professional and current president of York College (CUNY) Berenecea Johnson Eanes. This due diligence was undertaken to provide an accurate picture of how our divisional structure meets current challenges and how well we are positioned for the future.

This past year certainly has highlighted the importance of exceptional student life programs, particularly in areas of wellness and prevention, health and counseling services, inclusion and equity, new living learning environments and the delivery of student services on  all of our campuses to all students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We also have the transition of two leadership positions – the executive vice president and provost and the vice provost/dean of student affairs – making it a critical moment to consider how all these factors of growth, complexity and increasing student needs impact both structure and leadership. 

I have concluded from all of the above to elevate the vice provost of Student Affairs to the vice president of Student Affairs. This move will create the Division of Student Affairs and will enable our Division of Academic Affairs, overseen by our next provost and executive vice president, to focus on the work of our faculty, colleges, libraries and other academic service units. This structure is the most common for institutions of our size and complexity, and elevating student voices and meeting their diverse needs is perfectly aligned with our proposed mission, vision, and values in Reach Higher 2025. Consistent with my general view of leadership, these structures enable us to identify the best people, expertise and diversity of perspectives to fuel an integrated and high-quality university life for all of us.

I will begin the search for our inaugural vice president for Student Affairs immediately and have asked student affairs expert, Dr. Karyn Rabourn, associate professor and director of the Master of Education in Higher Education program, and Kate Harmon, acting associate dean of students and director of Recreation & Wellness, to chair the search. Vice President Greg Sanial will be the executive liaison and Dean Annie Belanger will be the inclusion advocate. Storbeck Search is assisting in this search as well as the one for our next provost. Student Affairs will continue to report to Interim Provost Chris Plouff, under the transitional leadership of Acting Dean of Students Aaron Haight, until a successful candidate is named.

Your insights are welcome as we consider additional opportunities to reflect best practices. There will be opportunities for key stakeholders and the university community to meet finalists as we conduct the search.

Many thanks to all who work tirelessly to support students, particularly during COVID. We have exciting opportunities in front of us as we continue to Reach Higher Together.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella

President

Dear GVSU Community,
 
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been vigilant in taking the necessary steps to protect our campus community. As I’m sure you are aware, the national picture today for the spread of COVID-19 is dynamic and worrisome. The Centers for Disease Control increasingly reports upward trends in positivity from the variants. It has become clear that in order to successfully manage the shifting conditions of COVID, we need to implement additional safety measures for the Fall semester, while continuing to follow local and federal public health guidance. We ask for your attention, understanding, and action.
 
Lakers required to Vax-Up!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give full approval to the vaccine in early September. In anticipation of FDA action, GVSU will require all faculty, staff and students to be vaccinated by September 30. We urge you to get your vaccination now. There will be limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons. 

 
We will have numerous free GVSU vaccine clinics available on campus, including during move-in week August 24-26 and during the first week of classes for arriving students and any accompanying family members to assure information, access and cost are not barriers to this important protection. Vaccines are available now from health care providers, pharmacies, and local health departments.  Coronavirus - COVID-19 Vaccine (michigan.gov)
 
This decision was made after extensive discussion with health and medical experts. Top health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Johns Hopkins Medicine, report Covid vaccines have been thoroughly tested and found to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19. We are aligning the requirement at GVSU with FDA approval to acknowledge those who are waiting for additional confirmation of the vaccines’ efficacy and safety. We recognize education is the best way to increase participation. We want to be a resource for information and access to our students and families, particularly those who need additional support. 
 
As a community, we must lead with our values and care for one another by increasing our vaccination rates. Today, nearly 80 percent of faculty and staff have reported being vaccinated, and of the students who completed a self-assessment in 2021, nearly 60 percent report being vaccinated. 
 
Daily Data Collection/Online Self-Assessment
The online self-assessment continues to be required. It has proven to be highly successful in mitigating the virus on campus and helps guide any necessary revisions to policies and practices. We require students, faculty and staff to complete the self-assessment each day before coming to campus. Visitors must also fill it out before coming to campus. Faculty, staff and students are required to record their vaccination status on their online self-assessment. Please do so at your earliest opportunity.
 
Testing Program
Students, faculty and staff who are unvaccinated are required to be tested weekly.
 Our robust testing of the GVSU community has been highly successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 on campus. We will use information from the self-assessment to send notices for weekly testing.
 
Face Coverings
Beginning August 9, face coverings will be required in all indoor spaces for all faculty, staff, students and visitors on our campuses.
 The new university alert level system will incorporate face covering requirements based on the overall rate of spread and mitigation measures. We will start the Fall Semester at Alert Level 2 as a precautionary measure. This alert level can change as we learn more about our overall vaccination rate.
 
Town Hall
A Fall 2021 Virtual Town Hall will be held August 19 at 2 p.m. to answer your questions. You can register and submit questions at this link: gvsu.edu/rsvp/townhall. We have also set up the Lakers Together Call Center at (616) 331-INFO (4636).
 
We are excited to be returning to our full campus experience and will continue to keep community safety, coupled with preservation of the full student experience, our first priority. We are confident this set of changes, taken together – vaccinations, face covering, testing and regular self-assessments – will keep us safe, learning and help to preserve the fullness of our campus experience. We will be prepared to pivot as CDC, federal and state guidelines change. Watching the alert levels and action matrix will be important for each of us. Up-to-date information can be found on our Lakers Together website.
 
Let’s remember the pandemic has been stressful for all, and Lakers Together means showing compassion and care as we navigate uncharted waters. My thanks to members of the GVSU Virus Action Team (VAT), who have not missed a day acting in service to each of us, and also to members of the community who continue to care for one another.
 
I’m looking forward to seeing all of you and engaging in campus activities and events during the coming academic year. GVSU is a vibrant learning institution and supportive community because of you. 
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Winter 2021

Dear Campus Community,

The jury in the murder trial of George Floyd has rendered its verdict and found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter. A step towards justice has been made today, but it does not discount the continuing reality that people of color face in our country and the work we have ahead. Our hearts remain with the family of and all those close to Mr. Floyd.

Since Mr. Floyd’s death, Minnesota and America have grappled with actions against people of color by some police officers that have ripped at our hearts and undermined our belief in equal justice under the law. We will continue to use education and advocacy to create change locally and systemically, while we continue to prioritize criminal justice reform where everyone can be offered equal protection under the law. Systemic reform will not happen overnight and so we must remain vigilant to hold those who abuse power responsible wherever and whenever we see it.

At my request, Grand Valley’s School of Criminal Justice and Police Academy and Grand Valley Police Department are at work on solutions. Following the killing of Mr. Floyd, I asked the Police Academy to lead the way in enhancing public safety education with more robust requirements for diversity, inclusion, and de-escalation for future law enforcement personnel. In addition, I called for a convening of a Campus Safety Task Force to review current policy and practices and recommend change related to our own campus safety. GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan led a listening tour over the last academic year and we will now move on convening an independent task force to review our own community safety practices and provide any appropriate recommendations. More details are available at www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/charge.

We are working to schedule a community discussion for any who would like to contribute to our campus efforts or provide feedback. In addition, campus resources continue to be available for any who may need support. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. The Division of Inclusion and Equity is also available for support by email at [email protected].

In the meantime, I ask all members of our community to support each other in whatever ways you can and to unite as a community in our commitment to racial equity and inclusion. Together, we will create not only a stronger Grand Valley community, but also recommit to our responsibility to impact broader systemic change.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community:
 
We’re almost at the end of the semester! We have much to celebrate as we round the corner to exams, commencement and a welcome break. But we must finish strong in our fight against COVID-19. As you likely know, the state of Michigan has the highest rate of daily infections of any state in the nation over the last week. Cases connected to our community are on the rise as well. See our dashboard here.
 
We know what to do, and we need to do it. Follow the health guidance. We have just 10 days to go until exams start. No one wants to be sick, or in isolation or quarantine during this time. And we know students don’t want to bring the virus home to family members.
 
I want to congratulate you on your perseverance while acknowledging the virus is among us, and we have an ongoing obligation to try to stop the spread.
 
We can do it! Finish strong, Lakers.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

In the midst of the murder trial of George Floyd, the tragic killing of Daunte Wright compounds the trauma and heartbreak that has been an ongoing reality for the Black community. Sadly, these tragedies revive deep wounds.

As a university and a country, we must continue to do the critical work of ending systemic racism. At Grand Valley State University, our anti-racism work is ongoing through the Network of Advisors for Racial Equity (www.gvsu.edu/inclusion/action) and through our intentional examination of our own campus safety and law enforcement practices.

Change is needed, and we must do our part through education and action. The impact of collective trauma in our communities of color is devastating for all of us.

We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. We care deeply about our students, faculty, and staff who are especially hurting. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. The Division of Inclusion and Equity is also available for support by email at [email protected].

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Grand Valley has been working on collaborative agreements with Historically Black Colleges/Universities (HBCUs) to support students through combined degree programs. Building upon GVSU's successes with combined BS/MS programs, we have offered to extend our approach to students at partnering institutions, allowing us to support additional learners, help broaden our student population, and respond to the needs of our partnering employers.

Thanks to the work of Vice President B. Donta Truss and Dean Paul Plotkowski, this week we celebrate the first such agreement with Fort Valley State University in Georgia. This agreement provides an opportunity for students to begin their education at FVSU and transfer to GVSU for completion of their computing or engineering degrees. I invite you to join me to commemorate this historic signing.


Virtual Signing Ceremony
for the articulation agreement between
Grand Valley State University
and
Fort Valley State University

Thursday, April 8
1:00 – 2:00 p.m. EST
Link to join the Zoom meeting:
https://fvsuag.zoom.us/j/92600889934


I would like to thank all the faculty and staff who have worked to craft the curricular and support elements of this agreement under the leadership of VP Truss and Dean Plotkowski. I look forward to celebrating this exciting moment with you.

Sincerely, 

Philomena V. Mantella
President 

Dear Campus Community,

You most likely are aware that COVID-19 cases in Michigan are on the rise, and if you track our own dashboard, you know that cases within our community are rising as well. And as the Virus Action Team just shared with us, the U.K. variant is circulating in the community.

In contrast to this disturbing news, we can look at the positive climb in vaccination rates, but we must not let down our guard. Let’s all continue to follow the best public health guidance to fight this pandemic!

Transmission in our academic space has been low to nonexistent, indicating that preventive measures, such as wearing face coverings and social distancing, are effective in stopping the spread. Continue to use these effective mitigation strategies around family and friends.

Preventing the spread

  • You’ve done your part, now it’s your turn to get vaccinated. Register for the vaccine and make an appointment as soon as you can. Complete information on the vaccines is here. If you have personal concerns about receiving a vaccine, you can talk to your health care provider or call the State of Michigan COVID Hotline at 888-535-6136.   
  • The West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids has expanded vaccine availability to those 16 and older. Most can now self-schedule online. To set up an appointment for those who are 16 or 17 years old, or those needing special assistance, call 833-755-0696.
  • Wear a mask when with friends or family, even when outdoors.
  • If you travel, get tested quickly upon returning to campus and follow these travel guidelines

 

It’s expected that a large segment of the community will be vaccinated in the next two to three months, but vaccinations alone are unlikely to change the trajectory we are currently seeing. We need to be vigilant and keep up the same good habits that have allowed us to have a successful year, despite the pandemic.

The Winter semester is coming to a close and final projects and exams are looming, but we also have the promise of longer, warmer days. Make sure to finish strong, Lakers! There’s much to look forward to.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Laker Community,

Yesterday, shootings in the Atlanta-area led to the murder of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. Grand Valley State University mourns the loss of life and stands with our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities during this unsettling time.

While the man charged with the murder denies racial motivation, the AAPI communities have been increasingly impacted by threats, intimidation, assaults, injuries and death over the past year. According to Stop AAPI Hate, more than 2,800 incidents of racism and discrimination against AAPI community members across the country were reported between March and December 2020.

Anti-Asian violence and acts of racism in all of its forms must stop. We condemn these acts as reprehensible and contrary to the values of our university and society. Each member of our community has a responsibility to interrupt intolerance and address hate when it shows up as acts of intimidation and violence.

We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions following a tragic event and the Human Resources Office provides a number of resources for employees. The Division of Inclusion and Equity is also available for support – call (616) 331-3296 or email [email protected].

As a Laker community, please continue to care for each other in tragic moments like these and at all times.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella
President

Dear Laker community:
 
We are now at the halfway point in the winter semester, and I want to again commend the campus community for the careful and focused way our collective adjustment to Covid allowed us to continue our journey together. Thank you! This has been a year like no other, and I suspect we will all be glad when it is behind us. 
 
The success of the scientific community in developing and deploying vaccines raises the expectation that we will be able to have typical campus operations for the Fall semester. With that in mind, I know you welcome the news that we are planning for full campus operations for Fall, including regular campus housing, student services, and student life activities. We will take stock of events and lessons learned to continuously improve the Grand Valley experience, and we will operate consistent with any public health guidelines that may be in effect at that time. And, we know that if we need to adjust, we will be ready. We have already proven we have the agility to learn and grow no matter our circumstances.
  
Please continue to follow the health guidelines and take advantage of the vaccine when you have opportunity. Be safe and be well.
 
Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
We now have answers in the death last month of our student, Taylor DeRosa. The medical examiner has ruled her death accidental. Police Chief Brandon DeHaan has reinforced his earlier statements that there was never, and is not now, any safety risk to the campus associated with this sad event.
 
Taylor’s death is a terrible tragedy for her family and all those close to her. We know her fellow students, as well as our faculty and staff, have been affected. We are a caring community and our hearts go out to all who knew and loved Taylor. We respect their need to grieve and honor Taylor’s memory.
 
Our routines during COVID have put physical space between us, but we should work to stay emotionally connected, especially as we grieve the loss of a promising young woman who was part of our campus community. If professional assistance is needed, the university offers support services to students, and employees in need of counseling services may use the employee assistance program.
 
Take care of yourselves and each other.
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,
 
Welcome to Winter Semester 2021! This semester is filled with promise, and I am filled with excitement. I invite you to join me with renewed optimism, energy and confidence as the end of the global pandemic is in sight. We are experienced now in how to keep ourselves and others safe, and we are committed to staying the course in the fight against COVID. Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents have already been vaccinated and more vaccines are on the way. We are hopeful that soon we can return to our pre-COVID way of life. I have commissioned a team to plan the “ramp-up” prior to our Spring/Summer semester, so we’re ready for a great summer and fall on campus.
 
Part of caring for ourselves and others is being mindful of our emotional well-being and keeping an eye out for signs of distress in those around us. Technology is a wonderful gift, but it can also isolate us. Don’t let it. We need to make sure we really connect with each other. If you find you need some professional guidance, we have the resources: the University Counseling Center for students and the Encompass Program for faculty and staff. 
 
Keeping active is a great way to stay connected. We opened the semester yesterday with more than 1,300 people joining a community-wide tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr, and we have more substantive events scheduled.

  • Provost Maria Cimitile and I are hosting a Fireside Chat on February 2, discussing the future of learning with Sanjay Sarma, the vice president of Open Learning at MIT.
  • Watch for details on our new Presidential Roundtable Series during which my three predecessors at Grand Valley and I tackle the pressing issues of our day with noted experts. 
  • Find out about student organizations and take part in giveaways at the virtual Campus Life Night January 31. 
  • We have nine days of celebrating with Winterfest, beginning February 5, with everything from snowballs to ice carvings to bonfire pits to hot chocolate. I’m also expecting great Laker creativity during the snowman building contest!

As always, we continue the good work of our university. I appreciate the creativity I see from all segments of the community to keep teaching and learning thriving, our operations humming and to provide ways to have fun and enjoy each other. I have deep gratitude for what we’ve been able to accomplish, all the while following health guidelines and planning for our future. We need your voice in that future: Reach Higher 2025.  Our next series of huddles will launch during this semester, and you will see details soon. You can also share feedback online.
 
The future at GVSU is bright! Help us spread the excitement and recruit the best and brightest to our community. Find out how to Be a Laker, Bring a Laker. And wear your GVSU swag! Every Friday, beginning January 22, the Swag Team will be on the lookout for those wearing their Laker gear – virtual meetings count! There will be prizes for offices, classes and people showing off their Laker pride. Look for more information on GVSU social media channels. 
 
There is much to do and much to learn. Thank you for enriching our community in many ways. Let’s have a great semester!
 
Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Campus Community,

Last week’s events in our nation’s capital remain front and center in national and international discourse. The storming of the Capitol Building, the iconic symbol of our democracy, was shattering to our perspective of our nation. I am reminded of a different day in Washington, in 1974, when the favorite son of Grand Rapids, Gerald Ford, assumed the presidency under extraordinary circumstances. “This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts,” said Mr. Ford to a nation that was living through events once thought unimaginable. Those words seem just as applicable today.
  
President Ford told us that the guardrails of democracy had held firm through the Watergate scandal when he said: “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.” Mr. Ford’s unshakeable belief in democratic institutions was rooted in that of the Founders. It was Thomas Jefferson who told us, “The people are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” 
 
An important question arises: where do we go from here? We must strengthen our commitment to principled leadership, civility and democracy, no matter the difference in our views and politics. We must work together, as we move forward from chapters already written in history, through today’s defining moments into a future of greater promise.
 
Our GVSU community is fortunate to have generations of faculty and institutional leadership working together to advance our mission. Emblematic of this distinctive Grand Valley ethos, my esteemed predecessors — Thomas Haas, Mark Murray and Arend Lubbers — join me today in condemning the assault on the nation’s capital and spurious attempts to void the results of a fair and free election.

In further response, we are creating and will jointly host a Presidential roundtable series, called “The Constitution, Elections and Democracy,” with support from the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Program in the Meijer Honors College, the Office of Student Life, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. We will, as members of an academic community, seize this moment to explore the divisions straining our civil discourse. Grand Valley is defined by fair, rigorous and open intellectual exchange offered with respect for the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of people of all backgrounds. Profound pain delivers to us the opportunity to strengthen ourselves, our community, and our nation. Careful examination of the Constitution, voting rights and procedures, journalism, social media, and other related subjects will bring focus to this undertaking. 
 
We know our campus community can pull together during this ongoing time of unique trial to be a model of the best humanity has to offer. This series is one such way. We invite you to join us at our roundtable, and also to pursue your own engagements and strengthen the national conversation to build a stronger America through constructive dialogue and by embracing personal responsibility to each other.
  
Sincerely,


Philomena V. Mantella, GVSU President
Thomas J. Haas, President 2006-2019
Mark A. Murray, President 2001-2006 
Arend D. Lubbers, President 1969-2001

A message from President Philomena V. Mantella in reaction to the violence in Washington, D.C.

I write today with a heavy heart. No matter where we as Americans fall on the political spectrum, we must condemn the violence that shook our nation’s capital and our personal psyches yesterday. The images of breaking glass and acts of violence, and the knowledge four people died, must propel more of us to return to a nation that reveres intellectual argument and the rule of law. Those who have the benefit of advanced education must take the lead in elevating civility and respect.

We hoped the turn of the calendar to 2021 would move us from a difficult year to one with promise of brighter days. The first week has not given us proof, but it will not take away my hope. I know that our campus community can pull together during this ongoing time of unique trials to be a model of the best humanity has to offer.

Thank you for all you do to make Grand Valley a community that holds itself to the highest ideals.

Sincerely,

Philomena V. Mantella, President

Fall 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Our Laker community continues to mourn one of our own, while authorities continue to investigate the suspicious death. The family of Taylor DeRosa is aware of the outpouring of concern for their loss. Taylor became part of our on-campus community as a first-year student this Fall semester. Our thoughts and prayers surround the DeRosa family during this tragic time.

There is much we do not know about the cause of her death, and the investigation is ongoing. Grand Valley Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Brandon DeHaan assures us, at this time, it appears the general public and the campus community are not in danger. He is urging all of us to be patient while GVPD and other law enforcement agencies continue their investigation. We have a moral obligation not to spread misinformation that fuels unhelpful suppositions and may hamper the investigation. 

We must support and care for each member of our Laker community. GVSU Counseling Center staff are ready to provide service to anyone who needs it, (616) 331-3266. The Dean of Students Office also has additional services available and can be reached at (616) 331-3585 or [email protected].

Tragedies have a way of focusing our attention to what matters most – the people around us. Keep the student’s family in your thoughts and offer your help and support to those who need it.

Sincerely,
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Lakers:
 
Fall semester is coming to a close and I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to adjust to the changes made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic. I congratulate those who graduate this weekend and extend to the Class of 2020 every good wish as they move to the next stage of their lives with a Grand Valley diploma in hand. Remember that our Laker Lifetime Learning Commitment stays with you throughout your career, ready to help whenever you need new skills or knowledge in our rapidly changing world.
 
This is also a good time to speak to next semester, spring/summer terms, and the coming academic year. For now, it is difficult to speculate whether there will be any restrictions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services that may impact Winter semester 2021 which starts in mid-January, or spring/summer terms, which begin in May. However, we plan to continue our hybrid model, if safe and allowable to do so, and we are prepared to accommodate the needs of our students, their professors, and those who support them whatever happens. We will offer additional classes and programs in the spring/summer schedule to support the academic progress of students wishing to catch up or work ahead.

Our plans for the Fall 2021 semester, beginning in August, are well underway and you’ll be able to register as usual beginning in early March. We anticipate a more robust on-campus experience in Fall 2021. Our plan is to offer classes on campus with face to face delivery at more normal availability, along with hybrid and online formats. We are also planning for co-curricular activities to be offered in person. We will of course put the health and safety of our community first, follow CDC and state health guidance, and if the situation warrants we will shift to socially distanced educational opportunities. 
 
As this is written, the deployment of a Covid vaccine appears imminent. I am ready to receive an inoculation as soon as I am allowed and I urge each and every one of you to do the same when your turn comes. Widespread vaccination is the one sure pathway to resumption of a full campus life. We are working with health care providers and will do everything in our power to assist them in making vaccines available to the Laker community.
 
As the semester concludes and the holidays arrive, please follow CDC guidelines, stay safe, stay healthy, and follow the protocols that guide the resumption of study next month. I will communicate with you whenever I have new information. Have a safe and happy holiday season.
 
Sincerely,
 
Philomena V. Mantella, President

Dear Grand Valley Community,

This has been a year unlike any other. I know how hard each of you has been working to ensure we continue to carry out our mission, serve our students in every way possible, and remain healthy. You have been flexible, agile, and adaptive. I also know how exhausting the prolonged period of rapidly changing situations is for everyone. Nevertheless, we press on to maintain our commitments to our students, our university and each other. Please know this extra dedication and your contributions have not gone unnoticed.

It’s in this light I am announcing two measures I hope will recognize, in a small way, how much I value your extraordinary efforts during this past year.

  • VACATION CARRYOVER: COVID has disrupted many things, including the ability of many to take vacation time. Vacation time above a certain number of hours is considered excess and is normally lost at the end of the calendar year. I have approved a one-time modification to policy that will allow employees to carry over to 2021 what would normally be considered excess, unused vacation time. I hope that next year you will be able to take advantage of this carryover vacation time, along with your regularly accrued vacation. If COVID continues to cause disruptions through next year, the university will revisit carryover limits from 2021 to 2022.
  • EXTENDED BREAKS: I have also approved a one-time extension of Thanksgiving and Winter breaks. We are adding Wednesday, November 25, to our Thanksgiving break. We will also close campus December 23 through January 4, providing an additional day on each side of the scheduled break. All university buildings will be closed during this time, and employees will be paid without impacting any leave accruals. Employees who must work December 23 or January 4 will be compensated using university holiday pay policies. Ideally, this will provide some additional time for each of you to rest, rejuvenate, and connect with family and friends.

     

    I hope the additional time off will provide some relief to our great GVSU family under these trying circumstances. Please direct any questions to your appointing officer or Human Resources at [email protected].

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a statewide public health order November 15, due to the acceleration of COVID-19 in Michigan. The order takes effect Wednesday, November 18, and it affects higher education and the operations of our university, as well as a variety of other activities.

    On Monday and Tuesday, campus operations will continue as usual.

    • Beginning Wednesday, all face-to-face classes will convert to remote delivery. 
    • Students in the health care professions are in different circumstances. Students enrolled in nursing and health professions courses will receive additional information directly from faculty or advisors.
    • Students in education will get information about student teaching placements from professors or advisors.
    • Research activities, both undergraduate and graduate, will continue with proper safety protocols.
    • Student work remains possible. Students should work directly with supervisors.  
    • Anyone needing IT assistance can call the IT Help Desk. (616) 331-2101. 
    • The university will remain open. Efforts by appointing officers to further reduce workspace density and shift to remote work will continue where possible, consistent with current guidelines.

    Testing information

    Free testing: COVID-19 surveillance testing is available for those who come to campus at least one day per week. Testing will take place through November 19. The university will pay for one test per person. Testing for people who do NOT have symptoms or who have not had direct exposure to someone with COVID will take place on the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses. Those eligible received an email with a link to schedule an appointment.

    GVSU also hosts a Spectrum Health testing site at the Commons on the Allendale Campus for people who have symptoms or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Appointments can be scheduled through MyChart or by calling the GVSU Spectrum Health COVID Resource Line at (833) 734-0020.

    Questions and concerns
    The GVSU COVID call center (616) 331-4636 remains in operation weekdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Personal health concerns should be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum Health 24-hour call center (833) 734-0020.

    The word of the semester has been “flexible.” Thank you for all you are doing to make campus the best and safest it can be.

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Lakers,

    The COVID-19 pandemic is taking a new and serious turn across the nation and here in Michigan. Earlier today, the heads of our state’s largest health care organizations warned that hospitals are running out of beds, some as soon as next week. Despite the very best efforts of everyone in our community to limit exposures, we have seen an uptick in positive diagnoses. This can create long waits to see a health care provider. This cannot continue without serious consequences to all of us, including our families and loved ones.

    I write today to ask that you take precautions, in addition to the ones we are practicing, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and hand washing. We know that exposure can come from even small gatherings, so I ask that you reduce your face-to-face engagements to only those critical to your learning and well-being, and while doing so, follow all public health recommendations. 

    Consider leaving your residence only to get food or medicine, attend classes, go to work or exercise, and wear a mask while around others. Avoid any unnecessary activity that might bring you into contact with others, because even those who show no signs of illness can transmit COVID.

    You’ve received earlier communications from the university to help you plan for a safe return to your permanent residence at Thanksgiving break. It is essential that you follow that guidance to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to your family and friends. Please review and be fully familiar with the actions we need you to follow. We are ready to provide the testing necessary and to support you if you have questions or concerns. Please call (616) 331-4636 or email [email protected] so we can assist in these challenging times. 

    I know these are difficult things to ask, and I realize we would all like our lives to return to normal, but we are still fighting the virus. So I ask for your support and leadership as responsible Lakers for the well-being of our entire community. Please do your part. Lakers Standing Together can always succeed. That time is now.

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    The number of positive test results of COVID-19 in our community has shown a steady decline for the last two weeks. This encouraging trend comes as the “Staying in Place” order issued by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. tonight, October 1. To continue this trend, we have worked with OCDPH to seamlessly move from this order to a new “Staying Safe” order, which lightens county regulations on our students living and studying in Allendale Township.
     
    Our students’ adherence to the public health advice and regulations is to be commended and recognized as we move into this new phase of keeping our campus safe. The new “Staying Safe” order acknowledges our progress and allows for some flexibility on campus.
     
    Staying Safe Order
     
    Beginning October 2, 2020 and continuing through October 16, 2020:

    • Up to four guests may visit student living units and residences, while observing strict preventive measures, including social distancing and wearing face coverings. Students living in on-campus housing also must abide by the Housing and Residence Life Guest Policy and Community Living Standards.
    • For all indoor common areas on the Allendale Campus, students may not gather in groups greater than four people. This does not include classes or university-organized academic activities.
    • All outdoor gatherings should not exceed 10 people. All should have face coverings except when eating or drinking. This 10-person-limit does not include gatherings organized by the university.
    • Face coverings continue to be required indoors and outdoors. Students who are alone outside may choose not to wear a face covering, but should be prepared to immediately use it when encountering another person.

    The full order can be found here. Your cooperation on testing and contact tracing, along with following the requirements of the order, is critical in our goal to mitigate the spread of this very contagious virus.
     
    The university has support systems in place to help students with a variety of circumstances, including technology, food, and mental health issues. Resources for employees are available through Human Resources on the Benefits and Wellness site. The university’s Call Center is available at (616) 331-INFO (4636). Personal health-related questions can be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum Health 24-hour call center at (833) 734-0020. You can also direct questions to [email protected].
     
    I remain grateful for the way our community has committed to a journey that might be difficult, but is definitely worth it. Thank you for showing how Lakers join together in challenging times.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    I want to share with you that thanks to the great work by the Grand Valley Police Department and our IT department, it has been determined the reprehensible racial incident reported during a Zoom meeting of our Black Male Scholars group last night did not come from people within our university community. That fact in no way diminishes our resolve to fight racism at every turn. The values of Grand Valley State University call us to be a model of an inclusive and affirming community.
     
    The seriousness of this incident, which included racist language and images, prompted our IT department to immediately and successfully be able to turn over suspect leads to GVPD, and the investigators are pursuing this as a criminal case. We are following up with those who attended the meeting to offer any support we can as a community.

    During the evening, it was reported that three other GVSU student groups also experienced “Zoom bombings.” These disturbing events are also being investigated. Vice President for IT Milos Topic is already working on additional protocols and training to improve security.  

    We will not tolerate any behavior of this nature. We are committed to each member of our community and their well-being. If people need additional support, please contact [email protected]

    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President  

    Dear Campus Community,
     
    I write you tonight with a heavy heart. We have an amazing group called the “Black Male Scholars.” At the group’s kick-off meeting on Zoom, our peace was shattered when someone interfered with the meeting with racist language and images. It was both shocking and deplorable, and this will not be allowed to stand in the Grand Valley community. I assure everyone involved that this behavior is condemned, and a full investigation by the Grand Valley Police Department and our IT department is already underway.
     
    Anyone with any information about this event, should call GVPD at (616) 331-3255 or contact Ottawa County Silent Observer.
     
    I want to express my profound sorrow to the students and employees who witnessed these reprehensible acts. We must condemn hate and bigotry and end ignorant behaviors that impact our underrepresented communities in disproportionate ways. This is a time for us to come together and care for one another.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    I want to update you on our action plan and progress toward racial equity. You will recall that in June I announced a framework for action and a Network of Advisors to guide our commitment to racial equity and social justice, following the killing of George Floyd. I make this update today, acknowledging the weight that so many of us carry, in particular our Black students, faculty and staff as the decisions are released by a Kentucky grand jury on charges for the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

    I am grateful to and excited by the progress of the Network of 36 faculty, staff, students, and alumni which has been building our 15-point plan for racial equity. They have been working continuously since June having defined five strategic pillars that serve as waypoints guiding us on efforts:

    • 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.

    A list of network members, our 15-point plan, and updates on each of the charges are posted at our Partners in Action Against Racism website. It’s important to also emphasize that this work joins the long history of efforts at Grand Valley to create an environment where barriers are eliminated, all members of our community can be their full authentic selves, and everyone is provided the support and care needed to thrive. Come back often to the website for regular updates as progress continues and as new efforts emerge that advance equity and inclusion for all members of our community.

    Caring for our community is especially important during this time. I ask each of you to consider how to peacefully add your voice to the call for social justice and to model the care we seek for all. I ask each of you to look for opportunities to empower our plan of action and engage with our Network colleagues to fuel and enrich the plan. I ask each of you to care for yourselves. The  University Counseling Center offers students support virtually or face to face. The Encompass Employee Assistance Program provides a number of resources for employees. Any member of the Grand Valley family who needs support or information on resources can also contact the Division of Inclusion and Equity at [email protected].

    We will continue to learn, lead, and, most importantly, act, as we know more than words are expected of us.

    With gratitude and hope,

    Philomena V. Mantella
    President

    To the Campus Community:
     
    The nation continues to grapple with the complication of the COVID-19 pandemic. Positive diagnoses across the country, in Michigan, and at Grand Valley State University continue to increase. When GVSU made plans for the resumption of campus learning and residency, I said we would make adjustments to ensure the continued health and safety of our Laker community. That time has come, and I ask for your understanding and support.
     
    Today, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH), in cooperation with the university, will issue a ‘Staying in Place’ order impacting GVSU students living and studying in Allendale Township. It is important to note, students are expected to attend in-person classes on their schedules, campus operations will continue, and offices will be open. The order directs students in Allendale Township to remain in their on-campus or off-campus housing except to attend class, utilize food services, obtain groceries or medicine and medical care, for worship and religious practices, intercollegiate medically supervised athletic practices, or for employment. 
     
    This order – which is issued under the law and is enforceable – begins tomorrow, September 17, and lasts until October 1. You can view the order here.
     
    In addition, we must all understand and accept the highly contagious nature of the virus. Strict adherence to preventive measures is required, so take careful note of the new requirements for face coverings to be worn outdoors, distancing, and contract tracing. Fully disclosing contacts is strictly for the purpose of keeping our community healthy. Please comply to keep friends and colleagues out of harm’s way.
     
    I know you will have questions about how the order affects you, your academic journey, and daily life. We have additional FAQs related to the order on the Lakers Together website, so please check it regularly for the latest information.  
     
    The university’s Virus Action Team has recommended to the university’s senior leadership that a step to Alert Level 3 is warranted, and I concur. This means extra vigilance is required of us all. Face coverings, social distancing, good hygiene, avoidance of crowds, and until October 1, remaining in your residence except under the circumstances identified in the order. Your adherence to the order will help us reduce the positive diagnoses, especially in off-campus housing areas, and make sure the order is lifted in 14 days.
     
    The university has support systems in place to help students with a variety of circumstances, including technology, food, and mental health issues. Resources for employees are available through Human Resources on the Benefits and Wellness site. The university’s Call Center is available at (616) 331-INFO (4636). Personal health-related questions can be directed to the GVSU/Spectrum 24-hour call center at (833) 734-0020. You can also direct questions to [email protected].
     
    I want to thank everyone who has been following the guidelines and doing their best to stay healthy and prevent others from becoming exposed. This is a journey of a thousand steps. Walking together – but separately – will serve the common good.  Please keep doing your part. 
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Statement from President Mantella: The Road to Justice is Ahead

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    As many work to safely return to campus, we must also be mindful of the social unrest that continues to impact our nation as it grapples with a painful history of systemic racism and oppression. The shooting of Jacob Blake and continued demonstrations in Wisconsin and across the country in reaction are reminders of how much work we have ahead of us. It reminds us to stay true to the commitments we made in June to learn, understand, act, and lead as partners in action against racism. The progress we have made is encouraging, but our work must continue vigorously as much of the road to justice is ahead.

    While we must press forward with urgency, we know the anxiety and emotions of many are heightened. In particular, we acknowledge the continued hurt and fear felt by many of our Black community members.The well-being of each of you and all in our community is our top priority. The University Counseling Center offers support for students experiencing overwhelming emotions following a tragic event, and the Encompass Employee Assistance Program provides a number of resources for employees. Any member of the Grand Valley family who needs support or information on resources can also contact the Division of Inclusion and Equity at [email protected].

    We must continue to work peacefully and vigilantly against bigotry and oppression in all of its forms. As Lakers, we must exercise great care of each other against both the virus of COVID and racism.  

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella
    President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    Move-in for our students living on campus begins Sunday. All our preparations for the Fall semester have brought us to this moment – a moment that is full of excitement for students and their families. This week’s Lakers Together update is a reminder about critical information for the campus move-in process, which is different this year. President Mantella and Director of Housing and Residence Life Kyle Boone focus on key points for students to think about as they come back onto campus.

    Dear Colleagues,
     
    Please accept my thanks for all you have done to get the university and campus ready for the start of this unprecedented Fall semester. I am grateful for your dedication to our students and our mission. Each day, the Senior Leadership and the Virus Action teams work to keep our community safe by examining the conditions in the state and region with our local county health authorities, state officials and Spectrum Health. Spectrum Health leaders continue to express confidence in our operating plans. Provost Cimitile, Vice President Sanial, and I are in regular contact with faculty governance, the AP Committee and representatives from the bargaining units. In addition, we can now add the experiences at other institutions that have resumed operations as well as those that suspended or decreased their face-to-face activity. We have listened carefully to our community and although there is no guaranteed way to approach the challenges we face, we have and will continue to adjust our operations as necessary. 
     
    As of today, working together, campus density this fall is significantly reduced. Based on student interest and demand, nearly 90 percent of courses are fully online or hybrid, students living on campus have been reduced by nearly a quarter compared to last fall and living centers have fully shifted to small living groups or singles. Co-curricular and other campus activities will be mostly virtual. While ensuring continuation of a high level of service and student-centered support, our workforce is either fully remote or using rotation and limited staffing schedules. Only essential visitors, vendors and contractors are allowed on campus. We have also instituted prevention and containment structures physically, through policy and modes of instruction. With all of these measures, campus overall density has been reduced by at least 50 percent.
     
    I am announcing the following additional adjustments as we make every effort to keep our community safe:
     
    Student Responsibility and Accountability 
    It will take all of us caring for each other and following the guidance to keep our campus safe. Being on our campus is a privilege that comes with compliance with all public health guidelines. I have sent a letter to students and their parents and other supporters further underscoring their responsibility in keeping all of us safe. I will ask the students to join with me in pledging their commitment to the health and safety of Grand Valley and we will hold them accountable to that promise. Committing to being a Laker means more now than ever before. The Student Code has been updated to include language specific to the health and safety of our community, with specific measures regarding off-campus events and activities. Just like faculty and staff members, students are required to wear face coverings, practice social distancing, and fill out the health assessment every day. Student Affairs has been and will continue to maintain regular communication with off-campus landlords to inform them of our protocols and policies and seek their assistance in restricting group and social gatherings. We will add peer community ambassadors to encourage compliance at off-campus activities. The success of our in-person Fall semester is dependent on shared responsibility and compliance with the university’s health and safety rules.
     
    Calendar Adjustments 
    The Provost, in consultation with the Deans and the Chair of the Faculty Senate, has determined that we will cancel fall break. Classes will instead continue during fall break (October 26 and 27). In addition, we will ask that after Thanksgiving break, any class that can be delivered remotely do so. The reason for this is to minimize student travel. We realize that some classes will need to continue with face-to-face delivery after Thanksgiving break because of experiential learning activities. Our housing staff will be prepared to help students move off-campus at this time. Final examinations will be conducted remotely.
     
    Flexibility 
    Students are aware that remote learning, in-person classes, and hybrid models are available, and those who have all remote classes need not come to campus. Students currently in our housing who decide to go fully remote and leave our housing can do so without financial penalty. Faculty and staff who have concerns about face-to-face engagement are encouraged to speak with their unit head, dean, supervisor or appointing officer to discuss options. We are fully committed to working with you.
     
    I know that people are concerned and I understand the apprehension we are all feeling. No one likes what the pandemic has done to the educational experience. I am taking into consideration all of these perspectives. We will continue to monitor daily and do what is best for our community. I can assure you there will be no hesitation on my part to make further adjustments as necessary. We are all in this journey together and I am proud to be at your side.
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    Here's your Lakers Together weekly update with critical information regarding our preparation for the Fall semester. We know we have shared so much information with you regarding recommendations and requirements for this unprecedented year. In this edition, President Mantella and Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Loren Rullman focus on the key points for students to remember as we get closer to the opening of the academic year.

    Dear Grand Valley community,

    We are fast-approaching the start of the new academic year, with all the positive energy that ignites. We have safely brought back many of our faculty, staff and student employees over the last month, and we are excited to bring many more of you safely back to campus this month. The global pandemic has required all of us to exercise more care and compassion for one another. This national crisis has required enormous effort, vigilance and more detailed campus planning than ever before. I am grateful for the hundreds in our university community who have joined me in this journey. I can assure you that health and safety are paramount in our minds, and that through all the challenges, we remain true to our mission to educate students and provide them with rich experiences.

    The world has moved from reacting to a sudden incident to living with the presence of the virus, and so we are making changes in our response. These changes will enable us to continue to effectively manage campus life, while doing our best to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and care for our community members.

     

    Virus Action Team

    A newly named Virus Action Team (VAT) will be replacing the daily work done to date by the Incident Management Team (IMT). The IMT began its work with COVID-19 management in late January and since the first of March has met almost daily planning the ramp-down and ramp-up of campus operations. I want to extend my sincere thanks to this team and announce members of the VAT who will lead us through the health and safety monitoring phase we have entered.

    Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Sanial will direct the team that includes project manager Lisa Haynes; faculty liaisons: professor of biomedical sciences Doug Graham, associate professor of physics Ben Holder, and program director and associate professor of occupational safety and health Dave Huizen; tracking and tracing leads: Jean Nagelkerk and Tina Barnikow; academic affairs lead, Ed Aboufadel; student affairs and experience leads: Lynn (Chick) Blue, Nykia Gaines and Kate Harmon. Three members will devote all their energies to this team, while the remaining members will dedicate significant time working daily with the team. The VAT will be monitoring the health and safety in the Grand Valley community as well as the surrounding region, and will report to the Senior Leadership Team.

    Any health monitoring questions or concerns should be sent to: [email protected]

     

    Partnership with Spectrum Health

    I am pleased to announce our partnership with Spectrum Health to assist us in monitoring and managing the virus. This development is significant as we repopulate our campuses.

    • Infectious disease specialist Habiba Hassouna, M.D. will serve as our consultant.

    • BeginningAugust 17, Spectrum Health will operate a 24/7 COVID call center for GVSU. The phone number will be available on that date.

    • SpectrumHealth staff will follow-up on self-assessment flags, including testing for individuals with symptoms or exposure.

    • The partnership will increase our testing capacity with results in 24-48hours.

    • SpectrumHealth will provide daily check-ins following positive tests.

     

    Campus Repopulation Plan – pre-arrival requirements

    Critical to the success of our 2020 plans is our behavior. As we return to campus, it is the responsibility of every member of our community to always follow the best practices outlined by public health professionals and part of our “Lakers Together Protecting Each Other” campaign.

    We need to do our part in safeguarding others and ourselves. 

     

    Self-assessment
    Beginning August 17, 2020, all students, faculty and staff are required to complete the daily COVID-19 risk self-assessment. This is required seven days a week whether you are coming to campus or not to more completely track the virus, and your compliance will be monitored. The self-assessment should be completed each day before noon. Just as with face coverings, we will start with care and reminders, move to educate, then look for a remedy, which could include a failure to comply report to Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution or Human Resources. Not completing the self-assessment would be considered a violation of university policy and would be actionable.

     

    Test prior to coming to campus
    The university is encouraging everyone to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. While these test results will be a snapshot in time, any positive results will be caught before arriving on campus. Testing can be arranged through your health care provider or you can consult the State of Michigan testing site finder with a “no cost” filter.

    Details on a new protocol for expanded on-campus testing will be announced prior to move-in August 23. Currently, students who have symptoms or who have been exposed to someone who tests positive can be tested at two university sites:

    Allendale:  GVSU Campus Health Center, 42nd & Pierce
    Grand Rapids:  GVSU Family Health Center

     

    Lakers Together on campus

    Ongoing testing 
    We have the agreement with Spectrum Health in place, and we are finalizing an agreement with another lab for additional testing capabilities. We will be able to facilitate thousands of tests with quick turnarounds to help track the virus. Expect that announcement soon.

    We will be conducting regular testing on high-risk groups such as athletes, resident assistants and critical personnel.

     

    Randomized testing
    Randomized testing of 1,500 people on campus will begin two weeks after the start of classes and continue throughout the semester. Students, faculty and staff will be selected at random to be tested. This will give us a sense of the presence of the virus within our community and the data will be used to identify any “hot spots” and to make decisions regarding campus operations.

    Cost for testing facilitated through Spectrum Health as part of the university’s self-assessment process will be billed first to insurance with any balance billed to the university. Cost for the randomized testing will be covered by the university.

     

    Tracking and Tracing
    All positive tests are reported to county health departments. Grand Valley has a close working relationship with Ottawa and Kent county health departments and will work with them to support their tracking and tracing efforts within our community. Spectrum Health will assist in providing follow-up with all students who are in quarantine (been exposed to someone positive) or in isolation following a positive test. Nearly 20 of our students will be hired to work as contact tracers with the county health departments through the GVSU Student Employment + program.

    We are also investigating the possibility of using technology to assist with tracking and tracing, and hope to enter a pilot with two companies offering this service in the coming weeks.

    We do have plans to care for students who are quarantined or in isolation, and they will receive more detailed information from Housing and Residence Life and the Dean of Students Office by August 17.                                                                        

    Faculty and staff who need to be quarantined or isolated should work with their appointing officer to determine the best course of action, as each case will need individual attention.

    The best source for up-to-date information on the Fall Semester is Lakers Together Fall 2020.

     

    Ability to switch to all remote education

    This virus has underscored the need for flexibility. Just as we are planning to welcome everyone back safely to campus, the truth is, the virus is unpredictable, and we must be able to react to any significant spread within our community. We are planning under the current Phase 4 designation by the State of Michigan, meaning we can be on-campus with heavy restrictions. We will continue to follow state and federal regulations.

    Our faculty have been making plans for resilient teaching to be able to shift courses quickly to remote if the need arises. Our health experts are devising a dashboard to monitor data and to identify triggers that would indicate we should move to remote education. The dashboard will be vital in our decision making and will be made public when it is operational. It will track testing of faculty, staff and students at Grand Valley and the rate of positive results. It will also monitor Kent and Ottawa counties as well as students’ home counties.

     

    Fall 2020

    We all understand this year will be different, but what makes the Laker community special will never change. We are committed to caring for each other, and we are committed to intellectual growth and endless opportunities.

     

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Spring/Summer 2020

    Dear Grand Valley Community:
     
    The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are a clarion call as we reflect on our individual and collective responsibility to our Black community, following the reprehensible killing of George Floyd and the ongoing racial and social injustice that exists in our society. “If you wait for the right time, chances are that you might never find it,” Dr. King said. “You must do it now, it is now or it is never, and for the right thing, delay is its worst enemy.” For Grand Valley State University, and for me, that time is now.
     
    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. These are the standards against which we must be measured.
     
    During the past several weeks, the university’s senior leadership team and I have been working to assess where we are and where we need to go. We are facing two viruses: COVID-19, where racialized health outcomes have become even more apparent, and systemic racism, which underscores for Black members of our community that equal justice under law is all too often not equal. We acknowledge the hurt, anger, fear, and distrust that many of our Black faculty, staff, students, and administrators must feel. 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.
     


    Our Charge

    • 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.

     

    To that end, I am today announcing the first of several action steps that will support this charge for social and racial justice, ensure that our own house is in order, and assist the greater community with its undertakings. I realize some actions will take time, but I expect all to act with thoughtfulness and urgency. Each action identifies someone to hold us accountable to ensure progress toward implementation, improvements, and/or changes. 

    • I am appointing a campus-wide network of advisors to allow broad input and commitment and ensures Black faculty, staff, students, and alumni voices are elevated to the highest level of engagement with me and all university senior leaders leading the work outlined below. I have asked George Grant, Dean of the College of Community and Public Service, to convene and facilitate this network along with Vice President for Inclusion, Equity, and Presidential Initiatives Jesse Bernal. The network will examine previous institutional recommendations as well as consider new opportunities for improving campus climate and equity for Black members of our community and other underrepresented communities. 
    • I am appointing a Grand Valley Campus Safety task force to review current policing practices and recommend any needed change. I have asked Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Sanial, Vice President Bernal, Dean Grant, and GVPD Chief Brandon DeHaan to identify and work with a diverse group of scholars and community members to advance this important action-focused review that will include interagency agreements.
    • Associate Vice President for Human Resources Maureen Walsh is charged to identify opportunities and look to implement the formation of greater and clearer promotional, developmental, and recruitment pathways for employees of color.
    • Vice President Bernal is charged with identifying 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.
    • I am instituting a 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. The Division of Inclusion and Equity, Human Resources, and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center will be responsible for the program and our network of advisors will assist us in shaping the most meaningful experiences. All appointing officers, including the deans, vice presidents, and I, will fully participate.
    • Because of COVID-19, three important actions have been slowed. As all demonstrate direct impact for our underrepresented communities, we will move forward swiftly as the fall approaches. This includes: hiring a university ombuds, finalizing a salary equity study, and issuing final recommendations for the 2019 campus climate study with plans to reassess next year.

     

    Academic Enhancements

    • Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and Provost Maria Cimitile is committed to leading work together with the University Academic Senate Chair Professor Felix Ngassa, and Vice Chair Shawn Bultsma, to 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.
    • Provost Cimitile and Dean Grant, along with the university’s Criminal Justice and Social Work programs, will embrace the opportunity for theGVSU Police Academy to lead the way in enhancing public safety education with more robust requirements for diversity, inclusion, and de-escalation.  

     

    Student Support

    • Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Loren Rullman and Associate Vice President for Inclusion and Student Support Marlene Kowalski-Braun are charged with supporting Student Senate in its development of peer-to-peer learning and other initiatives.
    • Upon his arrival in July, Vice President for Enrollment Development B. Donta Truss will be charged with developing 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. A new strategic enrollment management plan will be developed with strategies and initiatives with the bold goal of removing all equity gaps.
    • Under the leadership of Associate Vice President Michelle Rhodes and Vice President for University Development Karen Loth, the university’s financial aid program will be expanded to include a racial equity scholarship in honor of the Black lives that have been lost due to racialized violence. Students who demonstrate a commitment to social justice and racial equity may be eligible.  

     

    Leading a National Dialogue

    • When social distancing requirements allow it, Vice President Truss will bring his experience and passion to host a national conversation on the need for racial equity, the disproportionate impact on male-identified Black members of our community, and how it can be strengthened in an institution and community that is historically white through a Black Male Symposium on campus. This convening, and extensions from it, will confront other transformative institutional and systemic responsibilities we have for our diverse Black community, including female-identified and transgender members. This symposium will inform K-12 and postsecondary educators, education adjacent leaders and organizations, non-profits, business and community leaders on the necessary equitable ecosystem that must be created to best serve our Black community.

     

    Strengthening our Commitment to Grand Rapids

    • We also 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. We will commit 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 from COVID-19.
    • I will waive 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.

     

    Grand Valley has a long-history of work to advance inclusion and equity. Today, I am committing us to double down on our efforts to ensure our words are not rhetoric, but rather forces for institutional change. We have started a new website to keep the university apprised as efforts continue and additional actions are identified
     
    I welcome your input to this agenda of action, listening never stops.  We will be calling on you to help with many facets. When you hear from me and the other leaders identified in this email, say “yes.”
     
    With gratitude and hope,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella
    President

    Dear Grand Valley Community,

    Throughout this pandemic, we have been able to witness the best that people have to offer – and some of the worst. While our campus has pulled together to demonstrate tremendous care for one another and the larger community, the pandemic has magnified numerous acts of racism. Not only has xenophobia come to the forefront of our society, but we continue to witness racism through acts of violence directed at people of color.
     
    The tragic incidents that happened in Minneapolis, New York, Georgia, Tallahassee, and other places around the country are acts of violence against the Black community that cannot be tolerated. As we move forward, this and all forms of racialized violence must be stopped as we work to be a more just community.
     
    All forms of racism, from bias and micro-aggressions to racialized violence, create an undue weight on our faculty, staff and students of color. As such, there is a direct need to continue to educate and act on our values of inclusion and equity. We must speak up against bias and confront hatred. This work cannot fall only on the shoulders of our colleagues and students of color.
     
    As a historically white institution, we must teach what it means to be more than allies in thought but truly partners in action. For some this may mean holding accountable those who commit violence, peacefully working on cultural and institutional changes, engaging in self-education, sharing your knowledge with others, and above all, honoring the voices of those who are rightly aggrieved.
     
    The Grand Valley mission of shaping lives, professions and societies is a direct invitation for us to be engaged. We are steadfast in our commitment to making certain this work is embedded throughout the university and elevated as we forge ahead.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Faculty and Staff,
     
    As we continue to work remotely, we remain bound together by our commitment to our students and to the educational mission of the university. Grand Valley State University has weathered the disruption of COVID-19 to date because of our historically strong financial management and our community of collective action. We must continue to face present-day pressures and plan forward as this disruption continues. We must use this moment to make thoughtful, strategic and consultative decisions to ensure we make our community stronger on the other side. 
     
    Our approach to leading us forward
    As you know, our philosophy is simple. We work together for the best possible outcome, adjust as necessary and contingency plan for the unknown. We walk this path together.
     
    My May 4 email shared our plans to be solely online in the Summer semester, and to have face-to-face, hybrid and online instruction for the Fall semester, if state and health guidelines permit. I also outlined some initial cost-containment measures that have been implemented.
     
    Budgeting for FY21
    As we have said, we entered the pandemic on solid financial ground, better positioned than most institutions. Therefore, we were able to weather the initial losses from COVID-19 associated with refunds for student housing, dining, and parking and the cancelation of events. Now we are tackling the difficult work to protect ourselves against the unknowns as we plan for the next fiscal year. We are working with various scenarios regarding our enrollment, which remains stable yet vulnerable, and state appropriations, which will be carved from a state budget recording unprecedented shortfalls. We also must factor in the additional expenses to keep our campuses safe as we battle the virus. We are considering a mix of structural changes and temporary measures to prepare for the upcoming year. The structural changes must be designed to best position the university for long-term success. 
     
    We are in this challenging moment together. Each employee, each unit, each function and each expense at the university is being considered thoughtfully and strategically as we prepare to meet our financial goals and obligations.

    Here are the steps taken to date: 

    • forgoing salary increases for FY21 
    • limiting hiring and expenditures to only those that are essential 
    • moving nearly all print to digital 
    • ceasing all non-essential university travel 
    • distributing the first tranche of CARES act funding to students impacted by COVID-19 

    Here are the steps we are taking today:

    • As president, I am contributing 10 percent of my FY21 salary, and the Senior Leadership Team and the deans are contributing 5 percent of their FY21 salaries directly to the student hardship fund, in addition to any of our previous GVSU contributions.
    • Decreasing general operating expenses and administrative overhead 
    • Discontinuing new phased retirements 
    • Deferring non-essential construction and projects 
    • Reducing university events significantly

    Here are additional steps we are actively working on:

    • Implementing additional temporary measures to address the immediate FY21 budget needs 
    • Planning university-wide realignments due to redundancy or shifting needs and markets
    • Working on a voluntary early-retirement incentive program

    Return to campus
    Let me reiterate, we will act with regard to community safety first, do everything necessary to mitigate risk and uphold our shared commitment to high-quality learning. The work of returning to a public health conscious face-to-face experience is complex, multifaceted, and requires a multi-week ramp-up beginning mid-June to be ready for the Fall semester.  We are working in parallel today looking at our teaching modalities, our physical environment, work schedules, class schedules, PPE and expectations for individual responsibility in keeping others safe.
     
    Masks will be provided to faculty, staff and student employees. We are designing ways to reduce density in work areas and in classrooms to promote social distancing. You will see stickers on some floors indicating proper spacing and plexiglass in public-facing work areas. Facilities is following OSHA guidelines for sanitation and best practices regarding ventilation and air quality in our buildings.

    These threads of work must integrate over this ramp-up planning period into clear and fair guidelines for work and a high-value experience for our students, all in a safe and responsible environment. I am committing to personally communicate with you weekly through this period of planning and ramping-up.  You will also see regular weekly updates from the IMT on the university’s website. Human Resources will provide weekly briefings to appointing officers with specific guidelines on how to plan for employees to return to campus and options to provide flexibility moving forward. Employees with specific concerns or questions will be able to consult with their appointing officer for any necessary individual guidance.  
     
    Reach Higher Together
    Working together, we can mitigate risk, provide a quality student experience and support our community’s emotional needs during this unprecedented time.
     I can’t thank you enough for making truth of my words that Grand Valley State University is unique in its high-quality offerings, enveloped in meaningful relationships. Our shared values will see us through this unprecedented time to even stronger days. We will always Reach Higher Together.

    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    One quality that makes Grand Valley special is all faculty and staff see enrollment and retention as everyone’s job!

    A new initiative, tied to both of those goals, is Student Employment+.

    The + (plus) is important because it identifies student employment jobs that are experiential in nature — answering the current struggle students are having in finding employment and internship opportunities. They allow supervisors and students to work together to co-create meaningful work that relates to classroom learning and future career goals. 

    As current or potential student employment supervisors, I’m challenging you to think about how you can enrich student employment experiences through virtual, project-based work — like improving websites, designing virtual programming, and conducting research.

    A team from Student Employment and the Career Center came together to create all of the resources and tools necessary for students to LEARN and EARN. Visit Student Employment+ website for information, training dates, and support; call (616) 331-3238; or email [email protected].

    Let’s create as many SE+ jobs as possible for summer — and into the fall.

    Sincerely, 

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Winter 2020

    Dear Faculty and Staff,
     
    First, thank you for all you have done to help our students finish the Winter semester successfully, albeit not in a way that we could have predicted. We made history with our first virtual commencement on April 24 and our first virtual Board of Trustees meeting held earlier the same day. We have worked to take away as much uncertainty and anxiety as possible during these unprecedented weeks, in which we’ve stayed home and stayed safe, by communicating often and consistently to our community – faculty, staff, students and their families and supporters.
     
    We have been teaching and serving students remotely, and providing for those who remain on campus. The administration and supporting units have been conducting our business virtually. The Senior Leadership Team and the Incident Management Team meet daily. Our faculty and staff have maintained employment and benefits during this uncertain time. All of you, and in particular the critical staff who have been reporting to our campuses each day, have my deep appreciation for your attention to our students, our operations and the safety of our facilities.
     
    We have secured our path to fulfill our promise of a high-quality student experience. We have taken measured actions to preserve flexibility as we come to understand the full impact of this public health crisis. We have a great opportunity to lessen that impact by using our creativity, energy and personalized approach to all we are currently doing.
     
    Our approach to leading in challenging times 

    While we would never choose this path, it chose us. Amidst these deeply challenging circumstances, lives an opportunity to elevate our approach to education at a time in which the characteristics at our core – safety, personalization and highly-engaged learning – is exactly what is on the minds of our students and citizens. We must lead with courage and our values, fighting for learning to continue in multiple modalities – face-to-face, online and hybrid. We are working to secure a robust on-campus experience in the fall, with the necessary modifications to assure public wellbeing. We are working hard on scenarios to protect us against the unknowns. We will approach any reductions, due to cost and revenue shifts, in measured, data-informed steps, and we will communicate with our valued community members at every step. Below are the decisions we have made to date. 
     
    Academic continuity

    • Spring / Summer 2020
      The Spring semester, beginning May 4, and the Summer semester, beginning June 22, will be solely online learning and teaching for our students and faculty. I want to underscore how much I appreciate the tremendous amount of work by all our faculty and staff to design and deliver high-quality courses in an online environment. Having made the decision to be online for Spring and Summer, we have the opportunity to use our experience and ongoing training to enrich our online course offerings even further.
    • Fall 2020
      We are doing all we can to ensure a strong Fall enrollment, and continue to invite your ideas and full participation. We are considering several scenarios that prioritize the health and safety of the community and allow a safe and robust on-campus experience, with necessary modifications. We will abide by all health guidelines, including optimal conditions for social distancing, sanitation and health check protocols. Because circumstances are dynamic, we will do our best to have a decision about course delivery for the Fall semester by mid-June, and we will keep you informed.

     

    University Finances and Budgets

    Our steadfast financial planning for many years has left us in a position to move through this difficult time and focus on our students’ successful finish in the Winter semester. We are now approaching the next fiscal year and budget, and it’s clear the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will last for months – the possibilities of prolonged or reoccurring disruptions remain. Because of the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and the economy, we must make cost-saving decisions now and review a variety of scenarios as we plan for the 2020/2021 budget cycle. As you know, our financial situation is dependent on multiple factors, including enrollment and state appropriations, neither of which is known at this moment. But we do know there will be many challenging decisions ahead. Some factors are out of our hands – the virus, the overall economy – but much is in our control, and we must embrace those actions we can take to ensure the best outcome for the university. We have identified cost-saving practices we must implement immediately. This coordinated effort throughout the campus community reflects prudent fiscal practices that will give us flexibility as the future unfolds.
     
    Employment 

    • Compensation 
      We have made the difficult determination that there will be no pay increases for the 2020/2021 academic year. Staff evaluations will continue.
    • Hiring
      Only positions approved by the appropriate executive officer and determined to be essential to the university’s operation may be posted and filled.  

    Other expenses

    • Expenditures
      Only essential expenditures approved by the appropriate executive officer should be made. Every effort should be made to limit or curtail expenses, including but not limited to, outside consultants, services and travel.
    • Printing costs
      You are encouraged to produce only digital communication and move items currently printed to digital. This includes promotions, flyers, newsletters, invitations and other similar items.
    • Travel
      No university-sponsored travel should be planned at this time. This includes fall 2020 conferences and trips.

     

    Personal considerations

    Your life circumstances may have changed during this time. If you are reconsidering your professional path, there are resources available to assist you in making decisions. If you would like to explore reduced working hours, a voluntary unpaid leave or retirement, please connect with your appointing officer or Human Resources.
      
    Return to campus

    The State of Michigan continues under the current Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order through May 15, 2020. Recent changes to the order allow students to move their belongings out of campus housing, which began May 1. The housing team is conducting the ten-day move-out in a scheduled, safe manner, using practices deemed appropriate by public health agencies.
     
    The majority of us will continue to work remotely through mid-June, with only critical staff on campus. There will be access for research activities directed by Dr. Robert Smart, vice provost for Research Administration, in coordination with the deans’ offices. For your personal planning, we have a multiple-week ramp-up plan for all faculty and staff to return to campus. Consult with your appointing officer for details. We are planning to be fully back on campus, should circumstances allow, by mid-July to finalize preparations for the Fall semester. The Incident Management Team is working diligently to determine the safest plan to reopen our campuses when allowable. There are several groups on campus planning for academic continuity that address a variety of scenarios. We will continue to share information and firm dates with you as the situation evolves. 
     
    Throughout, Grand Valley will maintain CDC and scientific safety protocols, including social distancing, staggered shifts and additional cleaning and sanitation measures. We will provide face masks and other protective equipment. We will require temperature checks and monitoring, and employees should not report to work sick or if they were in contact with someone who is sick.
     
    Reach Higher Together 

    One quality that makes Grand Valley special is all faculty and staff see enrollment and retention as everyone’s job. It matters. We all have a stake in the outcome, and our students and families are counting on us to deliver the high-quality, high-value education for which Grand Valley is known.  
     
    Thank you for your commitment to our students and your efforts on their behalf. Do not hesitate to contact me as we get through this together. We will be even stronger.
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President 

    Dear Colleagues:
     
    Governor Whitmer this morning issued an executive order directing Michiganders to stay-at-home beginning at midnight tonight through April 13. The Governor estimates an unprecedented public health risk if we don’t flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 now. For this reason we must all adhere to her order and do our part. Let me reiterate again, your health and safety and that of our students, faculty, staff, and community is my highest priority. 

    In a separate message to students I reassured them that we will continue to support remote learning for as long as necessary. I advised them to alert their professors as to any circumstances impacting their academic participation. Of course, should a faculty or staff member become unwell, please be in touch with your immediate supervisor. Most services and support functions for employees also remain available – please call or email any office for assistance.
     
    The Governor’s executive order authorizes the university to designate functions necessary for the continuation of business, public safety, and related services. A limited number of employees in these areas will be exempted from the stay at home order but must practice social distancing and other healthy behavior. Appointing officers will communicate this information to affected departments.
     
    I am grateful for the many expressions of good will that I’ve encountered in my walks around campus. Grand Valley is a special place with an exceptional team. By working together, we will get through this challenging time.  
     
    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order

    Dear Students,
     
    Governor Whitmer this morning issued an executive order directing Michiganders to stay at home beginning at midnight tonight through April 13. The Governor estimates an unprecedented public health risk if we don’t flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 now. For this reason we must all adhere to her order and do our part. Let me reiterate again, your health and safety and that of our faculty, staff, and community is my highest priority.  
     
    I want to reassure you that although more staff will be working remotely in the days ahead, we are prepared for this and will continue to fully support remote learning, as planned. Students and faculty have risen to the occasion as only GVSU can do. We will remain connected and engaged through our virtual learning. University services are only a phone call or email away, in addition to many available online.
     
    Because the executive order takes effect tonight, move-out from campus housing will end at midnight and won’t resume until April 14 at the earliest. Belongings not removed can be left in your assigned room for the time being. Please consult the email that those living on campus received from Housing and Residence Life earlier today. In a university message you received last week, you were advised about refunds for housing and unused dining and parking services. We will be processing these transactions soon which will show up on your student account.
     
    This is a difficult time for all of us. If you have any personal circumstances causing disruption in your learning, reach out directly to your faculty members or advisor. If something arises that we have not anticipated, please reach out to the appropriate university office, or to me directly at [email protected]. You remain in my heart and prayers, as we weather together as one Laker community in these unprecedented and stressful times.   
     
    Sincerely,
     
    Philomena V. Mantella, President
     
    Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order

    To the Grand Valley campus community:

    Over the past several weeks, the spread of the Covid-19 has required us to take numerous actions that I summarized in yesterday's message. Events of the past 24 hours now require additional steps to protect our community. Our highest priority remains everyone's health and safety.  This will be challenging, but I know that our diligent faculty and staff will lead our students and the university we love to a successful outcome.  

    President Trump and Governor Whitmer have issued recommendations and executive orders that, together with our own operational decisions, necessitate adjustments in our previously announced plans. Please take careful note:

    • Remote academic instruction for this semester will continue through April 25. 
    • Spring and Summer classes will start as scheduled May 4 and will begin with remote delivery. Registration for these classes began yesterday and I encourage those planning to enroll to do so soon while selections are widely available.
    • April commencement ceremonies will be postponed. We will honor our Class of 2020 and will be in touch later with graduates about other options.
    •  Residence halls and living centers will close except for highly exceptional student needs. Move-out instructions can be found on the housing website. Food Services will adjust to this development.
    • Faculty will continue to conduct remote learning and online delivery, supported by Grand Valley's talented professional staff who will assist in keeping the university operational.   
    • As of tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, staff members who can fulfill their responsibilities by working remotely are expected to do so. Please be in touch with your appointing officer for approval and to discuss an efficient move to this new deployment. We are particularly sensitive to the needs of our colleagues with school-age children who, because of widespread K-12 closures, are at home.  
    • Individuals already identified as essential employees should expect to continue to perform their work on campus, practicing social distancing and healthy practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. Please consult with your appointing officer to determine if work schedules or shifts will be adjusted.
    • Employees in other critical functions may be asked to support a limited physical presence on campus in order to continue to provide essential student support functions. Affected departments may change as circumstances evolve. Please consult with your appointing officer.  
    • Employees with unique circumstances, health risks, or other issues not addressed above are invited to discuss this with their appointing officer. We will do everything we can to accommodate.

    The university's senior leadership, in consultation with the Incident Management Team, has reached these decisions because we believe them to be best for all concerned. We will need to work together to ensure that essential operations continue smoothly. We must also be ready to welcome our new freshman class in August, which undoubtedly means some adjustment to normal recruiting and orientation functions. Please assist us in this welcoming work whenever and wherever you can. 

    We have never before encountered such uncertainty and anxiety. Worry for our families and friends is entirely understandable; indeed, I share it. Know that I have your back. Do not hesitate to reach out directly to me. Take advantage of the counseling and other support services available through Human Resources. We will get through this together.

    Sincerely, 

    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Campus Community,
     
    We find ourselves in an unprecedented time, and I am mindful of the pressure it creates for each one of us.  I want to assure you that we are working continuously and responsibly for the safety of our community and with the best interest of our students, employees and visitors as our resolute focus. We are receiving continual direction from state public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control. Our Corona Visurs website remains the best source for you to find Grand Valley specific information as well as public health directives.
     
    Students 
    I walked through campus the last few days and know that while many students have relocated, some will remain. We have a system in place for students who need to stay in university housing. If you are in need of assistance for housing, please call (616) 331-2120 immediately.
     
    I have every confidence in the quality of instruction that is being converted to remote teaching and learning beginning Monday. The faculty and staff have shown their dedication to students once again by embracing the immediate task at hand so students get a quality experience, no matter how they access the materials and instruction. We all share an unrelenting commitment to student success as we finish this semester.
     
    We have worked hard to increase support on our phone lines so all questions get answered promptly. We recognize systems and infrastructures are under immense pressure nationwide so please understand, we will address problems that arise as quickly as we identify them. If you have technical challenges, call (616) 331-2101. 
     
    We will increase student communication as we convert to remote learning, so please be on the lookout for GVSU correspondence and check the website frequently. 
     
    University employees
    As you know education continues at GVSU although in the near term our learning crosses distance. Thus, business operations continue. I know this will cause challenges for some of our student employees, as well as our staff. We are here to support you and your well-being. If you face a challenge, we will work with you to provide options and flexibility in work schedules and locations. 
     
    If you are showing signs of an illness or need to take care of ill family members, we understand your need to stay at home. We understand the closure of K-12 schools will impact many in our campus community with younger children, and we are committed to flexibility in where, how and what work gets done. Please consult with your direct supervisor regarding your individual circumstances and needs. We will support you in navigating any challenges. 
     
    Human Resources is updating its website continually to give direction to employees and answer questions.
     
    Campus environment
    I want all our employees to have confidence in the cleanliness of our campuses. We have increased our already high standards in our buildings. While washing your hands remains the most effective means to combat the spread of any virus, the custodial staff and contractors have increased their focus on cleaning and disinfecting our spaces. They are paying special attention to door handles, restroom fixtures, desks, tables and all high-touch surfaces. Germicidal and virucidal disinfectants are being utilized in daily routines in all common locations. We need to thank them for their important work.
     
    Future decisions
    We have said we will conduct remote instruction through March 29. Many want to know when and if we will reopen classrooms. The decision to resume in-person classes will be based on clear signals that the spread of the COVID-19 virus has slowed. As we have all witnessed, events are unfolding rapidly. 
     
    We are communicating using a variety of platforms. Please read these emails carefully, check the websites shared in this email, check our homepage for news items, follow Grand Valley on social media, and please reach out to supervisors and appointing officers if you have unanswered questions or special circumstances. If you still have questions, email [email protected], and we will answer as quickly as possible. We also have a phoneline for other questions: (616) 331-INFO (331-4636).
     
    It's inspiring to see faculty and staff putting students first and rising to this challenge. It is heartening to see the warmth and adaptability of our students as they strive to get the most from their Grand Valley experience. Please be flexible and give each other grace during this period. No one wishes for these trials, but when they arise, they define institutions. I remain grateful to all of you and grateful to be a Laker. 
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear campus community,
     
    Our top priority is the health and safety of the Grand Valley State University community. Because the COVID-19 virus has spread to Oakland and Wayne counties in Michigan, Grand Valley will cancel classes March 12 - 15. The university will convert to remote teaching beginning March 16, at least through March 29. We are taking this step for the well-being of our community, and have procedures in place to support students with their courses, and faculty and staff with their work. This virus demands we remain alert and make constant adjustments to our plans, and we will update our community as needed. 
     
    The university’s Incident Management Team is in close contact with local health officials and monitors the Centers for Disease Control directives. You will find updates on all COVID-19 information. I urge you to check it regularly. 
     
    Students – classes, housing and employment:
    Students are encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence as soon as possible. This allows for social distancing as instructed by the Centers for Disease Control. Housing and Residence Life will support students who do not have a permanent or alternative residence by providing housing and dining on campus during this period. If you are in need of assistance, please call (616) 331-2120.
     
    For those who will no longer be living in the residence halls or dining at the university, the fees already collected for those services will be adjusted as appropriate. For those who work on campus, discuss your individual situation with your direct supervisor.
     
    Faculty and Staff:
    At this time, the university will remain open and operating for employees. Faculty will continue receiving updates from Provost Maria Cimitile with specific instructions related to converting to remote teaching. Staff members will be expected to report to work unless they are ill or have made arrangements with their appointing officers.
     
    Human Resources has more information for employees on its site.
     
    Events:
    The university is canceling large events of more than 100 people, including events organized by outside groups. If you have questions on events scheduled between now and March 29, contact  (616) 331-6620 for events on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus, and (616) 331-2350 for events on the Allendale Campus.
     
    Travel:
    The university has suspended all Grand Valley-sponsored international travel at least through March 30, and we strongly discourage domestic travel for university business. 
     
    I realize the spread of the COVID-19 virus is concerning to all of us. Be assured, you will get the support you need to get through this pandemic that has found its way to our state. If you have questions that are not answered on our Corona Virus website, or on the Human Resources site, you can email: [email protected]
     
    We also have a phoneline to answer other questions: (616) 331-INFO (331-4636).
     
    I understand this is an uncertain time, but we are already seeing our community pull together to keep each other safe, healthy and calm. 
     
    Sincerely,
    Philomena V. Mantella, President

    Dear Grand Valley Campus Community,

    Welcome back. I hope you had a meaningful and restful Spring Break. I want to update you on what we as a university community are doing regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus). Safeguarding our community’s health and well-being is of paramount importance as is the provision of timely information on these rapidly evolving circumstances. There are no confirmed cases in Michigan or on campus, thus activities will begin as usual on Monday morning.

    MONITORING: The university’s Incident Management Team has been meeting regularly, communicating daily with federal, state, and local public health officials, and planning for a campus response in case circumstances change. A website has been created to share information and updates. This website is your best source of information and I urge you to consult it regularly.

    TRAVEL: If you have been traveling abroad, be aware that the Centers for Disease Control recommends anyone who has visited any of the four countries under a Warning Level 3 Health Notice (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea) practice social distancing for 14 days after returning to the U.S. Information on how to do this, as well as other health protocols, can be reviewed on GVSU’s coronavirus webpage.

    Students who have traveled to any of these affected areas should notify the Dean of Students Office at (616) 331-3585 and, if living on campus, Housing and Residence Life at (616) 331-2120. Faculty and staff members who have traveled to any of these affected areas should notify their direct supervisor as they would if reporting an illness.

    WELLNESS: During this period of uncertainty, I ask that we keep each other in mind. That means frequent hand washing, seeking medical attention if you develop a fever, and taking care to respect those around you by avoiding actions that might spread illness. Again, the best source of information on healthy behavior will be found on our webpage.

    Your health and our campus safety is my highest priority. We are taking prudent, evidenced-based steps in dealing with what we know now, while planning for adjustments in our activity if and when warranted.

    Sincerely,
    President Philomena V. Mantella

    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    Welcome to a new year, new decade and a new semester at Grand Valley State University! This is an exciting time for us to take flight on our new chapter. There is considerable activity moving from concepts to actions around our priorities. I want to share with you a number of personnel changes, strategic initiatives, and new opportunities to fund some of our most impactful innovative ideas. These moves were informed by the feedback you gave this fall during our engagements about our future and how to best support our many talented faculty and staff to fully contribute. 

    We spent the Fall Semester in huddles with faculty, staff, students and alumni and gathered thousands of inputs through multiple vehicles. This ongoing dialogue has and will continue to inform our direction, shape our planning and build our strategy. It was an extraordinary experience to participate with you, focusing on our essence and identifying challenges and opportunities, thank you to the nearly 5,000 who participated in person or online.

     

    Senior Leadership Changes

    First, I want to update you on changes at the senior leadership level. I have increased the scope of responsibilities of some of my direct reports; a search is well underway for a new vice president for Enrollment Development; and with retirements and restructuring, I am able to add a new role to the Senior Leadership Team.

    Following the June 2019 retirement of Executive Associate to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees Teri Losey, Vice President Matt McLogan took on additional duties as interim secretary to the Board of Trustees. Matt’s extension of duties is now permanent and his new title is vice president for University Relations and secretary to the Board of Trustees.

    Vice President Jesse Bernal has been working closely with me since my arrival on presidential initiatives focused around building networks of engagement. We began this work in earnest in the fall, including the huddles, acceleration teams, and the K12-to-College Summit during Inauguration week. This expansion of duties will now be permanent and Jesse’s new title will be vice president for Inclusion and Equity and executive associate for presidential initiatives. This change recognizes both an expansion of duties for Jesse, and is demonstrative of my personal commitment to assure inclusion and equity work brings diverse voices directly into the university strategic initiatives.

    Vice President Lynn "Chick" Blue announced her retirement last fall. A search for her replacement is well underway. While Chick is currently responsible for all aspects of enrollment development and information technology, the role we are hiring for her replacement will focus exclusively on recruiting and retaining students. Therefore, I am adding a new role to the Senior Leadership Team, vice president for Information Technology and chief digital officer. I am pleased to add this role as the position to concentrate solely on information technology and the digital experience for our learners. There was clear, strong voice from our community on the need to invest in this area to meet current and future learner demands. We will launch a search in January for this critical role.

     

    Ombudsperson: 

    Another clear message from our fall engagement, and from past years, was the need to provide multiple avenues for voices to be heard and the facilitation and resolution of concerns, whether individual or systemic. To that end, I am announcing the creation of a university ombudsperson position. This person will help employees navigate challenges and complex problems in the workplace. Prior to making the hire, we will streamline today’s defined pathways for raising issues to assure they are clear, accessible and effective. The position will be posted this spring. 

     

    Faculty Fellows: 

    As was announced by the provost, three faculty fellows have been selected from those who applied to work with me over the next calendar year. These individuals will add faculty voice and talents to our administrative work, while providing opportunities for their own development. Aaron Lowen, professor of economics, will work on identifying new enterprise partners for learning; Kate Remlinger, professor of English, will focus on elevating faculty excellence in our communication; and Chasity Bailey-Fakhoury, associate professor of education, will focus on integrating our innovation work into the university’s strategy and vision.

     

    Support for Innovation: 

    Finally, we will begin an Innovation Fund this semester as an incentive to support colleagues in the development of new directions that unlock opportunities in strategic areas for Grand Valley. The Innovation Fund application, along with a synthesis of Reaching Higher Together community input, will be available by January 15. You can begin thinking and exploring with your colleagues and thought partners, and look forward to more details on how this fund will work and support our ability to carry on with today’s activities, while looking to shape and support some selected well-defined experiments aligned with our future.

    Grand Valley truly is an amazing university. It was a busy and constructive fall. The new year will continue and intensify our efforts and as I have said many times, we need the entire community to be involved if we are to Reach Higher Together.

     

    Sincerely,

    Philomena V. Mantella, President



    Page last modified January 19, 2024