Mantella, administration seek action after Grand Huddles


GVL \ Audrey Whitaker

Audrey Whitaker, Staff Reporter

This semester, Grand Valley State University not only welcomed new students, but also a new president. Within the first month of the fall 2019 semester, President Philomena Mantella announced a new collaborative series, The Grand Huddles, as part of the Reach Higher Together initiative to build GVSU’s future.

According to a statement from Mantella, once all 16 huddles have convened, they expect to have received feedback from over 2,600 individuals on campus.

As of Oct. 24, we will have convened 10 huddles, including one virtual session,” Mantella said. “We have six more. In all, we will engage over 600 students, faculty and staff in all 16 huddles. We have also received over 1,000 comments via an online survey, nearly 600 post-it comments on boards stationed at all our campuses and over 400 polling/text comments.”

The GVSU community has had a great response to the project, said Cori Kahler, an executive assistant in the Office of the President who has been assisting the president and vice president with the Grand Huddles series.

“One of President Mantella’s new initiatives is how to engage the campus community. And so I’ve been assisting with making sure we’re getting students, faculty and staff all engaged in the process,” Kahler said. “It’s been a great response, people seem really excited.”

Kahler said that the Office of the President has already started working toward the next steps based on feedback received during the series.

“We’re starting to synthesize all the information from both the huddles as well as the surveys and other feedback that we’re getting from across campus,” Kahler said. “Right now we’re hoping to have results to share by the end of the fall semester.”

Mantella said that themes are already emerging in the feedback.

“Inclusion and equity have consistently surfaced,” Mantella said. “People are concerned about the experience of people of color on campus, both employees and students, particularly when it comes to retention and graduation rates of students of color as compared to the overall student body. Addressing this issue is a priority for me, so we’ve added an additional huddle in December that will focus on underrepresented community members.”

Mantella noted that other emerging themes are working to increase access for all non-traditional students while providing support for them, and preserving our foundation in liberal education. Mantella said she is looking forward to more Reach Higher events and working with students in the future.

“We need to continue hearing from students, faculty and staff, so we keep what is solid and good while opening our minds to the exciting opportunities of our next chapter as Lakers,” Mantella said. “There will be more events and activities throughout the year to make sure everyone who wants to can contribute to where the university needs to go.”

According to Mantella’s statement, on Dec. 4, all those who have participated in huddles will be invited to a Grand Huddle Synthesis, where Mantella will share her reflections on what she has learned and gained through the 16 huddles and other efforts that have been underway since her arrival in July. This will be an opportunity to hear themes that have emerged, for participants to provide feedback on whether their ideas were captured accurately and to provide refinement or additional information.

Those interested can check for updates and opportunities at or send feedback to [email protected].