George Grant Jr. named chancellor of Penn State Berks

READING, Pa. — George Grant Jr., professor and dean of the College of Community and Public Service at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, has been named chancellor of Penn State Berks, following a national search.

George Grant Jr.

George Grant Jr.

Credit: Provided

Grant will begin his appointment on Jan. 4, 2021, succeeding Keith Hillkirk, who announced his retirement after more than 15 years of service to the University. Hillkirk continues as chancellor of Penn State Berks through the end of December.

In his new role, Grant will be responsible for the quality of academic programs in teaching, research and service; strategic planning; budgeting; philanthropy; faculty and staff development; outreach; and community and alumni relations at the Berks campus.

“Dr. Grant’s wealth of knowledge and experience, and engaged leadership will be of immense value to Penn State Berks and the broader community,” said Madlyn Hanes, Penn State’s senior vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor. “He brings a strong sense of community, a lifelong drive for social justice and passion for lifting others, and a demonstrated commitment to academic excellence and student success. I am so pleased he will be joining Penn State as chancellor of the Berks campus.”

In his current position as dean of the College of Community and Public Service (CCPS) at Grand Valley State, Grant oversees undergraduate and graduate programs in social work; criminal justice; public, nonprofit and health administration; legal studies; and hospitality/tourism management; as well as the CCPS Undergraduate Advising Center and the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

Grant said his career has been focused on helping others to help themselves and to find their voices, and the opportunity to join the Penn State Berks community and to lead as chancellor was “a perfect fit.”

“From a young age, I was aware of the idea of social justice, and I just knew that whatever I did I wanted to play a role,” he said. “There are so many people who don’t know they have a voice or how to use that voice — and I knew I wanted to help be a platform for them.

“As a professor, even in this role [as dean], I’ve always been part of child welfare, helping people advocate for themselves and their families. The college environment meshes perfectly with this in that we not only help prepare students for careers, but also to understand societal issues and help give voice to our communities,” said Grant. “As a life-long learner, I found a place that understands the past while moving forward. Every conversation confirms my feeling that this is a perfect fit.

“I’m excited and honored to be the next chancellor of Penn State Berks,” said Grant. “We have talented students, faculty, and staff that I will have the privilege of serving. I’m committed to Berks as a learning-centered college and will never lose sight of that mission.”

At Grand Valley State, Grant helped to develop new academic programming to support adult learners who may be challenged to balance their nontraditional student roles and day-to-day responsibilities. He initiated and developed a program for students in foster care attending college; developed a hospitality academy at a local high school; and implemented Master of Social Work programs in rural communities around the state to increase access to advance degrees. He helped to increase enrollment and graduation of first-generation students in the college, and created the university-wide Office of Community Engagement, working with the university, community and  elected officials on engagement, talent retention, social justice and diversity. Grant also successfully fundraised $46 million for CCPS.

Prior to becoming dean of CCPS, he was director of Grand Valley State’s Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work programs, and director of the School of Social Work. He received his bachelor’s degree in social work from Marygrove College, his master’s from Grand Valley State, and his doctorate in sociology from Western Michigan University.

As professor, Grant has presented at conferences on foster care, adoption and family preservation, and on topics ranging from culture and diversity, to family violence and child welfare services. His record of scholarship includes several books, numerous articles and evaluation reports.

With his strong commitment to community service, Grant has participated in a number of initiatives, including chairing the Department of Human Service Overrepresentation of Children of Color in Child Welfare Committee, cultural competency research, and training for the county mental health and contract agencies. He served on the Grand Rapids Police Chiefs Transitional Research Group, Kellogg's Foundation Families for Kids Project, Kent County Drug Court, and Calvin College Social Work Advisory Committee, and served on the boards of the Adoptive Family Support Network, Christian Counseling Center, Recuperation Center, Bethany Christian Services, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and Greater Rapids Urban League. He is also a commissioner for the Grand Rapids Public Museum.

His awards include Michigan Families First Family Preservationist of the Year, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, Grand Rapids Urban League Drum Major for Justice Award, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award, and Presidential Service Learning Scholar. Grant also is a Marygrove College School of Social Work Distinguished Alumnus.