President Mantella is named one of West Michigan’s most influential women


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Payton Brazzil, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s President, Philomena V. Mantella, was recently honored as one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s most influential women of West Michigan.

As the first female president of GVSU, Mantella has influenced many through her prestigious career. 

More than 240 names were submitted to the Grand Rapids Business Journal by community members to be honored in the publication. The 50 women were selected based on community involvement, leadership capabilities, depth of responsibility and participation in mentoring other women. 

An event to honor the 50 award recipients was held at GCG Live at 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids with more than 500 people in attendance. 

Eileen Pollack, author and former director of the MFA program at the University of Michigan, delivered the keynote address.

“One of the most amazing aspects of the women’s movement has been how supportive we’ve learned to be of each other,” Pollack said in an article by GVNext. “The media sometimes portrayed our differences or our infighting, when in reality we wouldn’t have affected such momentous change in the world in such a short time if we women hadn’t achieved such powerful unity.”

Pollack is best known for when she spent five years touring the U.S. and South Korea, working to advance opportunities for women and people of color in STEM fields. 

Mantella also has a commitment to providing more women opportunities, along with underrepresented groups. 

According to GVSU’s website, in the last two years, Mantella has expanded the university’s offerings and potential learners with programs aimed at non-traditional and underrepresented students. 

Chris Plouff, the Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, said Mantella provides innovative efforts to meet the needs of students today. 

President Mantella is blazing new trails as GVSU’s first woman president, leading the largest and most complex university in West Michigan… She has a strong commitment to providing equitable access to education and opportunities for high impact learning for all,” Plouff said. “She also has the campus working more intentionally to expand the focus on education across a lifetime.”

Before GVSU, Mantella served as an officer at many public and private universities throughout New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts. 

Mantella spent nearly 20 years at Northeastern University in Boston. There, she was Senior Vice President and CEO of the Northeastern University Global Network for 15 years before becoming Senior Vice President and CEO of Northeastern University’s Lifelong Learning Network in 2016. 

Altogether, she has over 30 years of broad experience working in higher education. 

In January 2019, Mantella was approved to be the next president of GVSU to serve a term of five years, succeeding Thomas Hass. 

Shortly after her term began, the global pandemic brought up many unforeseen questions. 

“Mantella has to deal with the global pandemic which is something no past president of GVSU has ever had to deal with,” said GVSU student Hannah Hosfelt. “I feel like not enough students give her credit for that.”

The 50 most influential women of West Michigan were profiled in a special section of the March 7 issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal.