Tuesday, September 12
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.
Philomena V. Mantella, President
Friday, August 18
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.
Philomena V. Mantella
Monday, August 7
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.
Philomena V. Mantella, President
Friday, June 30
Statement regarding United States Supreme Court Decision on Student Loan Forgiveness:
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
Thursday, June 29
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.
Philomena V. Mantella, president
Friday, June 23
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.
Philomena V. Mantella, president
Friday, June 16
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.
Philomena V. Mantella, president