Grand Valley State University Vice President B. Donta Truss
Photo courtesy of Grand Valley State University
Grand Valley State University moved forward boldly when it welcomed B. Donta Truss as its vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach in July 2020. Truss joined the administration, led by President Philomena V. Mantella, committed to building bonds throughout Michigan and the nation.
Truss is connected to new initiatives driving GVSU’s enrollment. His passionate advocacy on behalf of higher learning, student programming, and access to education runs deep.
As a first-generation college student at Alabama State University, Truss now provides resources to students and families that he once researched on his own journey from bachelor’s degree to doctoral degree.
‘Whenever I enter the room, all of me enters the room: my experiences, my background as a student of color, my background of coming from a small area that didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” he said. “When I’m in a room in a leadership role, it’s important for me to make sure that I’m advocating for voices that might not be heard.”
Opening access to higher education is important to Truss. He led a GVSU initiative to offer free tuition to students from low-income backgrounds who live in six Michigan counties.
Announced in February, the Grand Valley Pledge will award full undergraduate tuition (renewable for four years) to qualified students from counties where the university has a physical presence: Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, Grand Traverse, Calhoun and Wayne. Students must be admitted to Grand Valley, beginning in the fall 2021 semester, and have a family income of less than $50,000. See a list of criteria and more information online at gvsu.edu/gvpledge.
Truss’ background includes a concentration on student success initiatives resulting in enrollment and retention increases for different student sub-populations at three previous universities. He developed a center for emerging scholars that included the Students First Program, a support program for first-generation students, and held the first Black Male Symposium at Shippensburg University to focus efforts on the graduation rates of Black men. He also expanded first-time student enrollment at the Pennsylvania university by more than 10 percent, and during the span of his career has secured $10 million in grants to support student achievement.
“I started working in higher education by working with a federal TRIO program, Educational Talent Search. That particular program was designed to assist low-income and or first-generation students be successful for many years,” Truss said. “I advocated in Washington, D.C., for more funding for these programs for more funding for low-income first-generation students, more services for those students through those programs and that same level of advocacy has not changed.”
Truss worked closely with Mantella and other GVSU leaders to establish an initiative that creates partnerships with Historically Black College/University (HBCUs) to help diversify Michigan’s workforce.
The first pipeline program, announced in April, was with an HBCU in Georgia, Fort Valley State University. The agreement creates a pathway for FVSU students to earn a bachelor’s degree from FVSU combined with a master’s degree in engineering or computer science at GVSU in as little as five years.
Truss, who worked for FVSU before joining GVSU, said this agreement will create a pipeline for student success between two great institutions and provide even more options and opportunities for the students who will be served.
“FVSU students get an opportunity to experience an HBCU, all the greatness that comes with that, then they also get an opportunity to study and earn a master’s degree in an area that FVSU doesn’t offer,” he said. “The students will get to bring their voices to Grand Valley. We will learn from them; they will learn from us. This is a way for both sides to grow.”
GVSU began a partnership with Detroit Achievement Academy designed to encourage college enrollment and assist students with their success upon admission to the university. Truss made this announcement at DAA’s eighth-grade promotion ceremony June 3.
The Detroit Achievement Academy Pathway to GVSU is a pipeline program that will grant admission to GVSU for DAA students. Students must graduate from a Wayne County high school with a 2.8 GPA and register for, attend and complete college-preparedness workshops offered by GVSU.
“It is important to get our prospective learners in a pipeline on a college pathway as early as possible,” Truss said, “We will provide early information to learners to assist in navigating the college process with four years of preparation. This pathway program with DAA is pulling the veil back and giving students the information they need.”
Truss told students they can attend any college they please but stressed Grand Valley would be “an amazing opportunity” as students would be successful because of the resources and support they would receive. The resources begin even before they reach campus, tutoring, mentorship and financial aid counseling will be available to DAA students as they progress through Detroit high schools.
Connect with GVSU online at gvsu.edu or call the Admissions Office at 1(800) 748-0246. Contact Truss at email@example.com or Elizabeth Russell, at the GVSU Detroit Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org.