ALLENDALE — Grand Valley State University President Philomena V. Mantella used the opportunity of her first Board of Trustees meeting to share her vision for the future of the university and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.

Mantella took over as the university’s fifth president and first woman in the office on July 1. She said she is speaking with as many people as she can, as fast as she can, with the goal of understanding how best to connect Grand Valley with tremendous opportunities in the fast-changing world of education.

“Grand Valley is uniquely positioned with its student-centered education, rooted in liberal education and blended with professional studies. But that said, Grand Valley must respond to the dramatic change in the market, the demographics that are rising, the costs that are rising and the student loan levels that are rising,” Mantella said. 

Mantella is a first-generation college student who believes in the power of education to transform lives both professionally and personally. She said there is a national need to increase access and completion in post-secondary education, and acknowledged that the dynamic changes in education are challenging the institution’s capacity and readiness to adapt. 

The trustees chose Mantella to lead the university because of her experience in strategic planning, global market expansion and in the evolving ways successful institutions are delivering education. She has had broad experience with more than 30 years in higher education, serving as an officer at public and private universities in New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Massachusetts. She comes to Grand Valley after serving nearly two decades at Northeastern University, a private research university in Boston. She has a Ph.D. in college and university administration from Michigan State University and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in social work from Syracuse University.

In her first President’s Report to the board at Grand Valley, Mantella outlined four bold steps Grand Valley should take to face the challenges and be a leader.

“We need to continue to drive learner outcomes, relevance and lifetime value,” Mantella said, while noting the board’s action to approve new curriculum in microbiology and degrees in cyber security were examples of how Grand Valley is staying relevant for students and the larger community. “We must be distinct and visible to our populace so they recognize what we are doing. We must build a growth mindset. We cannot rely on government funds and student tuition alone for the actions that are consistent with our mission, that are consistent with our long view of stewardship and the urgency of today’s conditions. We must activate our full community.” 

Mantella said it will take everyone for Grand Valley to meet its quest for greatness. “We cannot preside over our current position, but we must, as GVSU has done so many times in its history, continue to flex, adapt and lead the change.”  

She ended her report saying that she made the life-altering move to West Michigan and Grand Valley because she believes in the university’s ability to lead, grow and be an example of how to serve students, employers and their changing needs.

“I have every confidence that we, not me, but we together, have the potential to set the path, set the pace and the conditions to excel.”

Mantella’s investiture ceremony will be held November 15 on the Allendale Campus.