Inclusion VP becomes familiar with campus community

Inclusion VP becomes familiar with campus community

Drew Howard

Originally published 3/16/15

In his first month as the new vice president for Inclusion and Equity, Jesse Bernal has spent much of his time learning more about the campus community by engaging with students, faculty and on-campus organizations.

Bernal was announced as the new vice president for Inclusion and Equity in late January. Since officially joining Grand Valley State University, Bernal said his interactions with the community have helped him and others in the Division of Inclusion and Equity in their plans moving forward.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet and hear from many people and communities both on campus and in the greater Michigan community,” Bernal said. “I am honored by the outpouring of support and interest, and look forward to continuing this engagement as a listening and learning opportunity as we think about the next phase of inclusion and equity work at GVSU.”

Organizations Bernal met with include the LGBT Center, the Women’s Center and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“I’ve felt fortunate to have been able to meet with many groups and organizations, and it was great to see each packed with students,” Bernal said. “I see a primary function of my role as understanding the many experiences and perceptions on campus and being able to articulate a broad voice for our community.”

Bernal said he sees GVSU as a pioneer in institutionalized support for diversity and equity.

“There is a lot of passion and commitment for GVSU within the community, and a great desire and enthusiasm to want to do more,” Bernal said. “The university has a long-standing commitment to equity and inclusion, but we also acknowledge our need to constantly recommit, re-energize and rethink our strategies and efforts.”

Bernal explained that his main priority as VP is to find every opportunity he can to listen and learn from community members at GVSU, as well as in the West Michigan community.

“The Division of Inclusion and Equity is charged with providing a rich, inclusive learning and working environment that attracts, retains and supports a diverse community,” Bernal said. “The next phase of these efforts includes working to ensure equity is embedded across the campus and ingrained in all of our functions and decision making, that it remains relevant and innovative, that we strive to eliminate inequities and advance access and create a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive for all.”

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas said he is excited about Bernal’s devotion to inclusion and equity.

“I’m very pleased that he has accepted the opportunities here and has embraced, without a doubt, the mission that is very student centered,” Haas said. “He has taken off so well, and I know the entire university will be better off because of him.”

Kathleen VanderVeen, assistant vice president of inclusion planning, described Bernal as a difference maker.

“The Division of Inclusion and Equity has renewed energy,” VanderVeen said. “He has a fresh outlook as well as a strategic mindset to make changes here at Grand Valley that will make a difference on campus and in the broader community.”

The Division for Inclusion and Equity can be contacted at (616) 331-3296.