GV President Mantella re-appointed for second five-year term


GVL / Sydney Lim

Emma Armijo, Staff Writer

In its Nov. 4 meeting, the Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to re-appoint university President Philomena Mantella to a second five-year term.

Mantella began her work as university president in 2019, following the retirement of former President Thomas J. Haas.

Mantella told the Lanthorn she is excited for where the future of the university is headed and feels a second term is necessary to continue with the plans she has.

“I love the Grand Valley community, I love the work we’ve laid out for ourselves and work that is as bold as our plan is will take longer than a five-year period impacted by a global pandemic,” Mantella said. “Now we have a whole community that’s activated around our three commitments, and we can pull the threads that are most impactful on behalf of our students in our community.”

While navigating through intermittent disruptions that came with an unprecedented health epidemic, President Mantella’s administration developed the Reach Higher 2025 initiative to tackle three learning principles that they believe will make GVSU a better institution for all.

The Reach Higher 2025 plan stands on three pillars: empowering learning, lifetime learning and a culture of education equity within the university.

Empowering learning is focused around shifting traditional coursework to an active, hands-on learning model. This allows students to not only learn their area of study but also practice and explore it.

By enhancing the opportunities for experience across the university, students can walk away from their college experience feeling more prepared and more experienced within their field, also making them more ideal candidates entering the workforce.

Lifetime learning is an initiative to make GVSU accessible for non-traditional students.

President Mantella said it’s possible for adult learners involved in the full-time workforce to get left behind or swept away in a traditional coursework setting.

She said lifetime learning is meant to make academic programs more accessible in ways that non-traditional students can interact with, whether there’s more coursework offered in digital settings with lower in-classroom residency, or classes are offered in time slots around the average workday.

The education equity component in the Reach Higher initiative pushes past adjustments to the academic curriculum and, rather, hones in on adjusting academic culture within the university as a whole.

GVSU stands in the top 5 largest universities in Michigan this year, with total enrollment at 22,406 students. GVNext reports a 3% increase in first-year students.

Mantella said she’s excited about the diversity of the entering class. In doing so, she said the need to continue focusing on building a sense of belonging for all diverse communities and making sure the administration is being an active listener.

“Grand Valley has always been a very student-centered institution, but lifting student voices is really, it’s what wakes me up every day,” Mantella said. “You know, it’s sort of exciting because students have such a perspective on education, not as we experienced it, but as they experienced it today.”

The Reach Higher plan is driven to create a pathway for student success upon entry to the university and throughout a student’s education while elevating diverse voices in every space.

The conversation of Mantella’s re-appointment had been discussed amongst the Board prior to the decision. A no-surprises dynamic between the Board and President Mantella meant that the unanimous vote did not come as a shock.

Vice Chair Beth Emmitt explained the board is pleased to extend Mantella’s contract during a time when the market for top talent is so competitive.

“We value President Mantella’s dynamic, innovative and steady leadership of the fourth largest university in the state,” Emmitt said. “We are excited for our future – and make this decision on behalf of our learners, faculty, staff, supporters and communities.”

Acting chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, Megan Rydecki, said Mantella’s work spearheading the game-changing strategic plan in Reach Higher 2025 and developing innovative partnerships while navigating the global pandemic demonstrates her leadership capabilities.

“The Board of Trustees has full faith and confidence in President Mantella, not only because of her vision, pragmatism and generative mindset, but also because of her demonstrated leadership,” Rydecki said. “We have emerged a stronger university, with our eyes on the prize of maximizing student success at every level.”

Under her present contract, President Mantella is the highest-paid individual working for GVSU, receiving a $480,000 salary each year.

Upon re-appointment, the new contract will increase said salary to $500,000 for the next term, beginning in 2024 and ending in 2029.

The Board of Trustees indicated during their meeting they believe the increase is appropriate given Mantella’s performance and the size of the institution.

Earlier this year, as reported in the Lanthorn, the Board of Trustees also approved a 2.9% increase in tuition for the year prior to an increase in funding for the university from state lawmakers. There is no documentation, however, stating higher tuition impacts the presidential salary.