Meet Dr. Philomena Mantella, President of GVSU
In February of 2018, former Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas announced his coming retirement, and the search for the university’s fifth president began. Months later, it was announced that Dr. Philomena Mantella, former Vice President & CEO of Northeastern University’s Lifelong Learning Network, would take up the mantle as President.
As a first-generation college student and the university’s first female President, Dr. Mantella is dedicated to expanding access to higher education and continuing to foster an inclusive community at the university. We sat down with Dr. Mantella to learn more about her, and what is to come for the Laker community.
Q&A with Dr. Philomena Mantella
Many people may not actually be familiar with what a President of a University does day-to-day. Can you describe what a typical day looks like?
It really resembles the leadership of any complex organization. It’s about talent first in higher education, so in many ways I act as the Chief Talent Officer. Much of it is about being a member of the community. My early work in this role has been to get out and meet as many people as possible in the community and at the university. I’ve been walking through offices and meeting as many faculty as possible. It’s important for me to engage with our staff in order to foster a strong community of teacher scholars and administrators.
You are the first woman to be President of GVSU. What does that mean to you?
I am really proud and feel a strong sense of responsibly, as any “first” would. There is so much opportunity at GVSU, and it’s an exciting time to let my style of leadership shine. I am interested in a deeply engaged environment, and I feel in many ways it comes from who I am as a woman and a leader. Diversity of thought is essential, and I’m excited to bring my experiences in leadership to this organization.
What are you most excited about going into your first academic year at GVSU?
I think GVSU is an incredibly special place. It’s exceptional community and culture provides a great value proposition for students. West Michigan continues to emerge in the state and country as an important economic center, and I have been blown away by how many things this community has to offer. It’s important to me that to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can. I don’t serve this institution it’s surface, I need to understand this organization on all levels in order to lead.
What are some goals you have for your role at the University?
First, I would say that I want to preserve the essence of GVSU. It’s very student and community-focused. Second, I want to continue to act with a level of urgency with the current challenges facing higher education, including declining student demographics, and the price of tuition and its impacts on access. Third, I want to focus on our relevance and be sure that we are teaching and innovating in areas that are emerging fields. We have talent gaps across the country in fields that didn’t exist ten years ago, such as bioengineering and cybersecurity. We need to continuously examine our pace with those demands to ensure we are making students desirable for employment.
What is your favorite thing so far about GVSU?
That’s easy, the people! The campus is beautiful, but it’s the people who really make GVSU shine.
I will say too that I spent this morning at the Mary Idema Pew Library, and I am so impressed with this facility. It is a well-designed, exciting, technology-enabled environment. I had visited it when I first interviewed, but you really need to explore it to appreciate it.
The most burning question of all: Can students take selfies with you like they famously did with T-Haas?
*Laughs* I’m always game for a selfie!
You can hear more from Dr. Philomena Mantella at our next Business Insights event, coming up on September 26th. Click here to register today.