ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Valley State University is expanding its partnerships with historically Black colleges and universities.

In the program, students can earn their bachelor’s degrees from a HBCU and complete their graduate degrees at GVSU. 

Now, the university is partnering with six HBCUs, according to B. Donta Truss, GVSU’s vice president for enrollment development and educational outreach.

The university is also close to finalizing its first agreement with a Hispanic-serving institution, Truss said.

“There was no better group to work with and partner with where we knew there was some amazing potential,” Truss said. “We’ve actually had these partnerships in place for two years and we’ve been adding partners along the way. The most recent that we’ve added was Talladega College. It’s an HBCU out of Talladega, Alabama.”  

The initiative benefits the students, the universities and the community alike, said Truss.

“It helps us because we continue to diversify Grand Valley State University,” Truss said. “In this particular instance, we define diversity in a very broad perspective because these are students coming from the South, so culturally things are different. (The students) bring that knowledge with them.”

Grand Valley State University. (May 18, 2023)

Javier Guillen is the first student to graduate from the program with a master’s degree in cellular molecular biology and an emphasis in biotechnology.

“There are a lot of graduate degrees that are offered at our HBCUs,” Guillen said. “However, (cellular molecular biology) is one that I did not see offered.”

He received his undergraduate degree from Fort Valley State University in Georgia.

“It’s an absolute honor to be able to say that our students are going out and achieving at this rate, this level,” Guillen said.

Paul Jones, president of Fort Valley State University, said partnerships like the one with GVSU are becoming more common.

“I think the benefits go both ways,” Jones said. “Grand Valley State University is opening up tremendous doors for these students, not to just get a great education but also to connect them with industry.”     

Guillen has found a full-time opportunity in the medical field in Grand Rapids. 

“There are so many more Javiers that are at HBCUs that just don’t have the chance,” Guillen said. “Fortunately, I was given that chance with Grand Valley State University.”