GV provost search concludes with recent appointment of Fatma Mili


GVL / Meghan Landgren

Audrey Whitaker, Associate Editor

Grand Valley State University President Philomena Mantella announced on Feb. 15 that the university had selected Dr. Fatma Mili as the next provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at GVSU.

Mili is currently the dean of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her role at GVSU will begin in July of 2022.

Mili said she was contacted by Storbeck Search, a search firm hired by GVSU to identify possible candidates for the provost position. Mili said she had heard of GVSU during her time working at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

“We do get solicitations frequently from search firms and this one just caught my attention,” Mili said. “I thought ‘Oh, GVSU, I know the area, I know the university,’ and as I read about it, I was more and more interested.”

Mili said she was impressed by GVSU’s commitment to its mission, community and connection to the surrounding area. Mili said she could see herself making a difference at GVSU and thus felt it was a good fit.

“I’m generally very interested in mission driven institutions where they don’t see education as a competition,” Mili said. “Focusing on who we are, what we are trying to do, who our constituency is and so forth. I really felt that in in the description of the position of GVSU.”

GVSU’s Provost Search Committee began working to identify which candidates best fit the role of provost at GVSU during the fall 2021 semester. Paul Stansbie, Associate Dean of the College of Community and Public Service and Felix Ngrassa, chemistry professor and chair of University Academic Senate, acted as co-chairs to head the search.

“We tried to pull together a search team of all voices as we looked at this so that we get everybody’s perspective on what they were looking for in the new provost,” Stansbie said. “It had everything from faculty and staff, people in the Budget and Finance Office, administrators, there were some deans on there and some students, including some LEADS initiative students.”

Stansbie said Mili’s relationship driven approach to leadership, her understanding of challenges in higher education and the importance she put on the concept of shared governance.

“I think what Dr. Mili brought to us is that, at the end of the day, she’s a really exceptional relational driven leader,” Stansbie said. “She always took to heart the opinions and the voices of the people that were impacted by her decisions. I think she had a great understanding of what the challenges lie ahead for not just Grande Valley but higher education in general.”

Mili said the same; she was impressed by GVSU’s strategic plan, the information available about developing the university’s new strategic plan, Reach Higher 2025 and the acknowledgment of the need for change in the higher education community.

“I’m extremely interested in and aware of the urgency of the fact that there are some things that need to change in higher education,” Mili said. “I saw that written everywhere in the strategic planning that there is a deep recognition that we cannot do business as usual.”

Additionally, Mili said she was impressed by the community involvement in the provost search, the importance of art on campus and connections between campuses during her visit to GVSU.

“I didn’t expect the Grand Rapids campus to be that big and that connected and that and so central in Grand Valley,” Mili said. “I see that as a huge asset. For me, the connection of the university to its community is something that is extremely important.”

Following her in-person visit to campus and forum interviews in January, the Provost Search Committee recommended Mili as one of two finalists to Mantella, Ngrassa said. Mantella took 10 days to review materials and contact references, ultimately announcing she had selected Mili for the position.