GVSU elects 1st female president, Dr. Philomena Mantella

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Valley State University has selected its first female president.

The GVSU Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to make Dr. Philomena V. Mantella the school’s fifth president.

Board members handed her an “incoming president” nameplate as she took the podium.

“I’m absolutely humbled and thrilled to be elected Grand Valley State University’s fifth president. I’m deeply honored to accept the presidency this morning,” she said, thanking those who aided in the search.

“I’m inspired by the energy and the passion you all have for this exceptional place,” she added.

She will get $480,000 in her first year at GVSU, according to a university resolution.

Mantella earned her doctorate in college and university administration at Michigan State University. She worked as the assistant dean for enrollment services and director of scholarship and financial aid at Ferris State University from 1985 to 1989, her LinkedIn profile states.

“Didn’t we say we’d come back to Michigan someday? And here we are,” Mantella said to her husband during her post-election speech.

Mantella accepted a pin, hug and took a selfie with current GVSU President Thomas J. Haas after her speech. Haas announced his retirement on Feb. 28, 2018, after 11 and a half years in office.

Mantella is currently the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University in Boston. She will remain there until she officially takes over the post at GVSU on July 1, a day after Haas retires.

While Mantella will be the first woman to serve in the position, GVSU administrators say that her gender shouldn’t overshadow her qualifications.

“What we have is a qualified leader,” Haas said.


As the news made its way around campus, students told 24 Hour News 8 what they’re looking for most in a new leader. Everyone brought up GVSU’s recent incidents of sexual assault.

“It should be a big focus. It’s definitely an issue that is at hand and even if it’s not as many as other college campuses, it’s still important and it’s still affecting people,” GVSU freshman Hadley Christensen said.

“Sexual assault is a big issue (and) that’s across the board at a lot of college campuses,” senior Dashaun Ragland said.

Mantella said her focus will be on prevention, working to spot signs before problems occur.

“You can never stop every event,” Mantella said. “There will be an event where I’m sure I’m in front of the cameras, but we’re going to do everything we can to make this a safe and welcoming community as it’s been historically.”

Lakers also brought up Haas’ availability to students. They don’t want that to change.

“We all have great ideas and if we’re not nervous to speak to people who can make these things happen, then I think we can really improve this campus,” Ragland said.

Mantella said that’s why she’s coming into the position with an open mind and listening ear.

“I’m going to do a lot of listening. I’m going to do a lot of engaging. Obviously, the essence of Grand Valley State goes deep and I want to really understand, in a profound way, what that essence is about,” Mantella said.

Members of the search advisory team that recommended Mantella as a top candidate say her willingness to listen and ability to promote GVSU’s campus worldwide drew them to her.

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