Higher Education and Human Resources

GVSU names VP of inclusion and equity

January 29, 2015
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GVSU names VP of inclusion and equity
Jesse Bernal. Courtesy GVSU

Grand Valley State University has named the person who will lead its division that’s designed to attract, retain and support a diverse community of students, staff and faculty.

GVSU said this week that it has named Jesse Bernal its VP of inclusion and equity, beginning in late February.

Bernal most recently served as the director of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif.

Bernal succeeds Jeanne Arnold in the role. Arnold left the university in July 2014, after serving for seven years in the inaugural position, to accept the chief diversity officer position at Gettysburg College.

Wendy Werner, dean at GVSU and a faculty member, is leading the Inclusion and Equity Division at GVSU until Bernal assumes the role.

The role

The Inclusion and Equity Division at GVSU is setup to create and maintain inclusive excellence, develop intercultural competency, remove barriers to full participation and advance the campus climate.

The team within the division also strives to build and engage the community, while advancing social justice.

Bernal’s experience, talent and fresh thinking are needed to enhance and expand GVSU’s commitment to diversity, according to GVSU President Thomas Haas.

“I look forward to having him on the Grand Valley senior management team for years to come,” Haas said. “He has much to contribute to Grand Valley and to West Michigan.”

Bernal said he’s honored and proudly accepts the invitation to join GVSU.

“Grand Valley is a leader for equity in public higher education,” Bernal said. “I look forward to partnering with all members of the campus community and our neighbors across West Michigan to build on the solid groundwork set by long-standing diversity champions. We all have a stake in this work, and together we will continue to advance our commitment to the inclusion and success of all our students and community members.”

Higher ed background

As the director of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara University, Bernal focused on developing strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty and staff.

He also worked with the Office of Enrollment Management and Office of Affirmative Action to attract and support a diverse student body.

Previously, Bernal coordinated a system-wide diversity and inclusion initiative at the University of California in the Office of the President.

He also served two years as a voting member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, while a student at UC Santa Barbara.

Bernal earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Westmont College and a master’s degree and doctorate in education from UC Santa Barbara.


Bernal participated in an open forum at GVSU on Jan. 20 through Jan. 22 with two other finalists vying for the leadership role: John Gates, president and CEO of Campus Diversity Agenda and principal of Criticality Management Consulting in New York; and Carmen Suarez, chief diversity officer and associate VP of Student Affairs at the University of Idaho.

Each of the three finalists gave presentations in the Kirkoff center, which was open to the campus community. 

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