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2014-2015 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies


Dean: Hiskes

Associate Dean: Schendel


The Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies fosters and supports interdisciplinary programs and initiative in teaching and research and university-wide support services. Its mission is: connecting diverse interdisciplinary communities and cultivating innovative liberal learning.

Program Information

The Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies offers interdisciplinary undergraduate degree programs in Chinese studies, liberal studies, religious studies, and women and gender studies; minors in African/African-American studies, East Asian studies, environmental studies, Latin American studies, Middle East studies, religious studies, and women and gender studies. In addition, the college hosts a number of academic and non-academic units that provide university-wide service and opportunities for faculty and students. The college serves to nurture and support interdisciplinary programming and promote cross-disciplinary collaboration.

What is interdisciplinary study? Traditional university models involve discipline-specific learning, focusing on depth of knowledge. Interdisciplinary study requires the learner to incorporate knowledge from a variety of content areas within a perspective that helps to solve complex problems and issues. Critical thinking skills are developed by learners who see the breadth of issues as well as the depth, combining science, the arts, and humanities. Interdisciplinary questions are complex, multi-faceted, and involve the highest order of learning skills. Often this means that instruction comes from experts in a variety of fields, and outstanding teachers who can help students combine real-world experience with broad content knowledge.

Center for Adult and Continuing Studies

The Center for Adult and Continuing Studies provides programs and services that link the needs of lifelong learners with the resources of the university. The Center for Adult and Continuing Studies coordinates academic programs and services at regional sites and locations throughout Michigan, as well as through professional development and community engagement opportunities. Information regarding professional development and Grand Forum can be found in the Community Resources section of the catalog. Information regarding nontraditional student assistance, programs and locations, can be found in the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies section of the catalog.

The Frederik Meijer Honors College

The Frederik Meijer Honors College provides academically talented students from all majors with the opportunity to work with excellent teaching faculty in a small college environment. The mission of the Honors College is to provide a challenging interdisciplinary liberal education and a living/learning environment that prepares students to be intellectually curious, life-long learners and leaders in their communities and a changing world. Additional Honors College information can be found in the Honors College section of the catalog. Honors courses are team taught, blocked sequentially, and offer an interdisciplinary approach to general education.

Barbara H. Padnos International Center

The Padnos International Center (PIC) serves as the university clearinghouse for study abroad opportunities for students from all academic programs. Students can choose to take faculty-led classes abroad, spend a semester abroad or intern at an international site. In addition, grants are available for faculty and staff to travel abroad to aid in the internationalization of GVSU and its curriculum. PIC hosts international scholars as well as incoming international students.

Office of Integrative Learning and Advising

Integrative Learning and Advising offers a variety of programs and resources to fully engage students in their lifelong educational journeys and assist them in making connections between school, work, and other spheres of their everyday lives. The purpose of the Office of Integrative Learning and Advising is to help students transcend boundaries between academic, personal, and work life to become engaged, ethical, and academically proficient learners.

Some of the hallmark programs of the Office of Integrative Learning and Advising are:

  • The Community Reading Project enhances the intellectual environment and culture of Grand Valley and its surrounding communities by encouraging the reading, appreciation, and discussion of books.
  • The Brooks College Co-curriculum offers collaborative educational experiences and events that encourage students to critique and shape their own educational paths within the context of an academic course.
  • Brooks College Advising Support Services coordinates and assists in providing services and resources supporting academic advising for students majoring or minoring in Brooks College academic programs.

Office of Sustainability Practices

The Office of Sustainability Practices provides the necessary skills, analytical tools, and resources to address global, national, regional, and local sustainability issues. Sustainability relates to the preservation of society for future generations by addressing the three pronged approach of social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship. The office connects faculty, students, and community stakeholders to address campus needs as well as community needs. The office provides support and input for course development, campus programming, internships, and project activities that promote awareness about sustainable development and the application for sustainable best practices.

Global Institute for Big History

The Global Institute for Big History (GIBH), located at 110LOH, is the headquarters for the International Big History Association (IBHA). Big history emerged as a field in the late 1980s and is related to but different from world history. The IBHA has a formal definition of the field: "Big History seeks to understand the integrated history of the Cosmos, Earth, Life, and Humanity, using the best available empirical evidence and scholarly methods". Big history is currently taught at hundreds of universities and high schools around the world.
The GIBH is responsible for the coordination of all Association endeavors - membership, conference organization, grant writing, research and education - and functions as a clearing house and organizational mechanism for the IBHA's many activities.
Office Coordinator for the GIBH is Ms Leslye Allen. For more information contact the office at (616) 331-8035, or [email protected] IBHA Treasurer Professor Craig Benjamin can be reached at [email protected]

Lake Michigan Writing Project

The Lake Michigan Writing Project (LMWP) is an organization of, by, and for teachers of writing at all grade levels and in all disciplines, dedicated to improving the teaching and uses of writing through a variety of programs.

Academic Units

Liberal Studies

The Liberal Studies Department at Grand Valley State University provides students with the opportunity to design programs that suit their specific interests, talents, and career aspirations utilizing courses throughout the university. The program begins with a core of required courses. Then, with the help of a faculty advisor, students develop a major area of study based on a specific theme, issue, problem, or career interest. Students interested in exploring the liberal studies option might begin by taking one of the core courses in conjunction with the Grand Valley State University general education requirement or one of the integrative or interdisciplinary electives. Students may also wish to write or make an appointment with any one of the members of the liberal studies committee.

Religious Studies

Housed within the department of Liberal Studies, Religious Studies offers both a major and a minor. The Religious Studies major provides core courses along with flexibility. Students have the option of focusing on particular religious traditions through electives in a range of global traditions and disciplinary perspectives. Students are encouraged to work closely with their advisor to determine the electives portion of the major. Close collaboration with faculty in the program through advising, student-centered coursework and independent study opportunities is an important part of the Religious Studies major. A Religious Studies major is a good foundation for careers such as in law, business, journalism, public policy, international development, and humanitarian services. Understanding religious issues enhances one's preparation for careers in such fields as criminal justice, international relations, education and government.

Women and Gender Studies

The Women and Gender Studies Program at Grand Valley State University offers an interdisciplinary major and minor based on the scholarship of the study of women, men, lesbians, gays, transgendered, and bisexuals. WGS has close relationships with the Liberal Studies Department and the African/African American, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and East Asian programs. The WGS Program works closely with GVSU's Women's Center, LGBT Resource Center, and Office of Multicultural Affairs to cosponsor a variety of speakers, events, and internships. For students selecting the major or minor in women and gender studies, there are more than 30 courses that fulfill the required twenty-one hours. More than 40 faculty across the campus support WGS through teaching, research, and service.

Areas Studies Programs

Area Studies focus on the interdisciplinary study of the culture and issues of a particular world region.

  • African/African American studies (minor)
  • Middle East Studies (minor)
  • Latin American studies (minor)
  • East Asian studies (minor)
  • Chinese studies (major)

Environmental Studies Minor

The Environmental Studies minor draws ideas and information from a wide array of fields such as anthropology, public policy, political science, economics, geography, geology, history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, biology, engineering, health science, and chemistry.

The Environmental Studies minor is designed to provide a broad interdisciplinary understanding of environmental issues for students in any major. Courses in the program will prepare students to develop effective, practical ways to address sustainability and environmental concerns.

Student Services and Campus-wide Programs

Supplemental Writing Skills Program

The supplemental Writing Skills (SWS) Program is a pedagogical component of the GVSU general-education requirements. SWS courses are writing-intensive, meaning that writing quality is a major component of both the classroom requirement as well as the grade. GVSU requires that students complete two SWS courses to graduate. Specific courses are listed as SWS. Additional information regarding SWS requirements can be found under Academic Policies and Regulations.

Community Reading Project

The community reading project is a campus wide initiative designed to form reading communities that focus on a single, annual reading. Community groups, classes, faculty, and alumni are invited to join the groups.

Now going into its 8th year, the Community Reading Project continues to carry on the tradition of providing the GVSU and surrounding community with the opportunity to engage in reading and discussing a selected text. Special events related to the topics and themes addressed in the CRP book selection are offered throughout the academic calendar, which culminates near the end of the winter semester, when the CRP book selection author or another distinguished lecturer is brought to campus to speak. Past CRP book selections and authors have included:

(2011-2012): The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

(2010-2011): The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

(2009-2010): Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson

(2008-2009): A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah

(2007-2008): The Glass Castle: A Memoir, by Jeannette Walls

(2006-2007): The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

(2005-2006): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon

Awards, Scholarships, and Scholarship Events

GVSU LGBT Scholarship Fund

Barbara H. Padnos International Scholarship

Jean Enright Scholarship (Women and Gender Studies)

CEA Scholarship (Cultural Experiences Abroad)

Mark A. Elizabeth C. Murray Study Abroad Scholarship

Nichols Sustainability Scholarship

Peace and Justice Advocacy Award

Arend D. & Nancy Lubbers Honors College Scholarship

Grand Forum Scholarship for Continuing Education

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistants work with Brooks College faculty and staff. Qualified candidates are selected on the basis of aptitude, interest, and background. Brooks College offers graduate assistantships in the following programs:

Adult and Continuing Studies

General Education

Integrative Learning and Advising

Padnos International Center

Sustainability Practices

Writing Center

Advisory Boards

Latin American Studies

Office of Sustainability Practices

Women & Gender Studies

Kutsche Office of Local History

Community Resources

Grand Forum

Professional Development

The Professional Development Partnership Program (for education and social work professionals)

Office of Sustainability Practices

Refer to the Community Resources section of the catalog for more information.

Program Descriptions

If you are in need of assistance please submit any questions or comments.