New year, new era for GVSU president, freshmen

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Cassandra Tank brought her Kalamazoo upbringing with her to Grand Valley State University, and like most first-year students, her concerns and worries came too.

“From Kalamazoo to Allendale, there’s less diversity,” said Tank.

Tank said the Black Excellence Orientation eased her anxiety and helped her meet another freshman in the crowd: Aurora Oviedo.

“GVSU was very welcoming,” said Oviedo.

Oviedo is also from Kalamazoo. She said she found her home away from home in an on-campus group called Laker Familia.

“It’s about heritage and culture and community and public service, and it’s a very beautiful, beautiful community to be a part of,” said Oviedo.

That community and sense of belonging is what new GVSU President Dr. Philomena Mantella fosters. She’s the first woman to hold the post and the first person in her family to go to college.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s a bit intimidating, but I’m ready to do my very best,” said Mantella.

GVSU’s president is interested in being a teacher and a student. She said the most fulfilling part of her presidency is recruiting and retaining Lakers she can learn from.

“What has brought me such joy, and success has been just to learn continuously,” said Mantella.

Becoming a Laker is a first for all three women. Together, they could light the way for the next group of freshmen looking for guidance.

“I’ll keep helping you be your best self,” assured Mantella.

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