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Gift to Brooks College creates professorship

  • Shelley Padnos, right, and Carol Sarosik gave a gift to the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies to create an endowed professorship of civil discourse.

Posted on September 18, 2013

Some may consider civil discourse a lost art in today’s world, but longtime Grand Valley supporters Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik want students to understand it and have the skills to bring divergent views to the table with respect.

The couple gave a gift to the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies to create the Padnos/Sarosik Endowed Professorship of Civil Discourse. Padnos chairs Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees.

Anne Hiskes, dean of Brooks College, is leading a search for the first professor. Duties will begin in the winter semester with planning for a fall 2014 course; the professor can serve up to two years.

Any tenured, tenure-track, affiliate or visiting faculty member from any Grand Valley college or department can apply; applications are due by October 18. The selected professor is expected to plan a course for the fall semester and organize a public symposium on civil discourse, among other requirements.

Hiskes said Brooks College is the perfect home for the professorship.

“Our faculty members are known for connecting the classroom and the community,” she said. “We have many service-learning opportunities that integrate real-world concerns. Interdisciplinarity, in its nature, requires understanding and integrating different perspectives.”

Hiskes added that over time, through curricular development and faculty professional development, this program will build institutional capacity to strengthen Grand Valley as a center of excellence in promoting civil discourse.

A kick-off event will be held November 20 to introduce the first person to hold this position. The keynote speaker will be Jack Lessenberry, veteran newspaper journalist and Michigan Radio contributor.

Hiskes worked with an advisory board of faculty and staff members and community members to create criteria for the professorship. Community members are George Heartwell, Grand Rapids mayor; Paul Keep, executive editor for print, MLive Media Group; Brent Slay, board member for Founders Bank and Trust; and Miriam Aukerman, staff attorney, West Michigan Regional ACLU.

Information about the professorship is online at Application materials can be sent via email to Questions can be directed to Hiskes at

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