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2018-2019 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies


Dean: Hiskes

Associate Dean: Gipson



The Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies provides Grand Valley and the community with experiences, expertise, and programming that deepens our understanding of the world around us. The college does this through its innovative curriculum and by providing students with high impact learning experiences like service-learning projects, study abroad opportunities, internships, living and learning communities, and intensive writing and research opportunities. The mission of the Brooks College is cultivating engaged global citizens through innovative interdisciplinary programs and diverse community partnerships.

Program Information

The Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies challenges students to tackle the important issues of the day by integrating the perspectives, knowledge, and methodologies of multiple fields of study. The college offers majors in liberal studies, religious studies, global studies and social impact, and women, gender and sexuality studies; and minors in African/African American studies, digital studies, East Asian studies, environmental studies, human rights, Latin American and Latino/a studies, LGTBQ studies, Middle East studies, religious studies, and women, gender, and sexuality studies. The college also offers certificate programs in sustainable food systems, Latino/a studies, intercultural training, and liberal education and professional skills. Most of these academic programs have social justice components to them.

The centers, initiatives, service units, and university-wide programs in Brooks College provide the expertise of highly qualified faculty and staff to Grand Valley and the West Michigan communities, helping people to become more skilled and experienced with internationalism, intercultural communication, sustainability, local history, social justice, creative problem-solving, and the goals of a liberal education.

What is interdisciplinarity? Interdisciplinarity is the integration of knowledge and methodologies from across the university to better understand the world around us. The most complex issues of the world, environmental stewardship, human rights, poverty, and the migration of people, to name a few, can only be addressed effectively if we pose questions, test hypotheses, and apply knowledge from different perspectives. In an interdisciplinary program, the focus is on improving critical thinking skills by prompting students to integrate knowledge from among the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, performing arts, and the professional programs. The interdisciplinary courses and programs in Brooks College are taught by faculty whose own research is interdisciplinary as well as by teams of faculty from across the disciplines who are skilled at helping students see different fields of study as parts of a whole. The goals of our classes and programs are to help students integrate perspectives from a variety of disciplines in order to problem-solve in a global context, take action in their communities, and connect learning to their future professions.

Barbara and Stuart 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.

Brooks College Office for Community Partnerships and Student Professional Development

The Office for Community Partnerships and Student Professional Development assists Brooks College faculty and programs with community-based learning opportunities and coordinates university studies courses in career exploration and career preparation, as well as other student professional development. This office also manages the use of the Brooks College Innovation Lab. For more information, visit the website at

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 lifelong learners, and leaders in their communities and a changing world. Additional honors college information is available in the honors college section of the catalog. Honors courses are team-taught, blocked sequentially, and offer an interdisciplinary approach to general education.

Global Institute for Big History

The Global Institute for Big History (GIBH), located at 148 LMH, 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." Visit 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 Donna Tew. For more information, contact the office by calling (616) 331-8035 or emailing [email protected] IBHA Treasurer Professor Craig Benjamin can be reached at [email protected]

Kutsche Office of Local History

The Kutsche Office of Local History fosters dialogue, understanding, and empowerment through local history. Guided by its mission, "giving voice to diverse communities through history," the Kutsche office leads interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives, places undergraduate and graduate student interns in opportunities both on and off campus, supports collaborative grant writing and training, and teaches oral history methods, digital and physical preservation techniques, and seminars focused on topics related to its mission. Current programs include the annual Local History Roundtable, the Gi-gikinomaage-min project, Youth Leadership Initiative, and Histories of Student Activism at GVSU. Information about our programs and upcoming events can be found on the Kutsche office website at

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. The Lake Michigan Writing Project provides professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers of writing and runs summer writing camps for students in grades 3-12. Visit the website at for more information or contact Director Lindsay Ellis at [email protected]

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.

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

  • 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.
  • Brooks Professional Series offers students the opportunity to connect their academic program to professional skills and opportunities. Students will learn how to articulate their majors, develop a professional "brand," and make connections through networking events.

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 social responsibility, cultural values, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship. Sustainability practices connects faculty, staff, 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 activities that promote awareness about sustainable development and the application of sustainable best practices.

Sustainable Agriculture Project

The Sustainable Agriculture Project is a collaborative Brooks College initiative involving students, faculty, administration, facilities, and the Office of Sustainability Practices. The project's "farm" on the Allendale campus provides a stimulating learning and research environment where students, faculty, staff, and community members learn, develop, and implement best practices in sustainable farming and agriculture that promote environmental stewardship, food literacy, and food justice while being economically viable. To learn more about opportunities for internships, research grants, class visits, tours, and the purchase of produce from the farm, visit the website at

Academic Units

Area and Global Studies

The Area and Global Studies Department includes interdisciplinary programs that focus on the history, politics, geography, and culture of various world regions as well as on current global issues such as human migration, climate change, and changing economies. The department offers the following programs:

  • African/African American studies (minor)
  • East Asian studies (minor)
  • Global studies and social impact (major)
  • Latin American and Latino/a studies (minor) and a Latino/a studies certificate
  • Middle East studies (minor)

Digital Studies

The digital studies minor provides students with skills to understand and use digital technologies. Regardless of their specialized major program of study, today's students will work in environments that increasingly rely on digital tools and platforms to create and share information. Through a combination of theory and practice, the minor provides opportunities to gain experience in using digital tools and develop a complex understanding of the cultural, social, and ethical dimensions of a digitized world. Visit the website at for more information.

Environmental Studies

The environmental studies program offers a minor that 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. The program also offers a sustainable food systems certificate that focuses more specifically on global agriculture, food distribution, the relationship of food and culture, and food justice.

Human Rights

The human rights program offers an interdisciplinary minor that provides students with both intellectual and practical opportunities to engage with a broad range of twenty-first human rights issues both locally and globally. Student have opportunities to participate in high impact practices such as study abroad, internships, and a capstone project. The study of human rights provides insights and skills that are relevant to careers in humanitarian organizations and NGOs, businesses, health care, politics, and the law. For more information about the program, go to the website at

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. Interested students are invited to write or make an appointment with any liberal studies faculty member. The Liberal Studies Department also offers the intercultural training certificate program, which gives students skills to interact effectively with people who differ from themselves in values, culture, and life experiences.

Religious Studies

Housed within the Liberal Studies Department, religious studies offers both a major and a minor. The religious studies major combines required core courses 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, by enhancing an understanding of religious issues, is a good foundation for careers in areas as diverse as the law, criminal justice, business, journalism, public policy, government, international development, education, and humanitarian services.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

The Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS) Department at Grand Valley State University offers an interdisciplinary major and minor based on the study of women, gender, and sexuality, as well as a minor in LGBTQ studies. WGS has close relationships with the Liberal Studies Department and the African/African American, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Latino/a, and East Asian programs. The WGS Department works closely with the Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity, Milton E. Ford 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, gender, and sexuality studies, there are more than 30 courses that fulfill the required 21 hours. More than 40 faculty members across the campus support WGS through teaching, research, and service.

Student Services and Campus-wide Programs

Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors

The Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors provides all university writers with the resources and services they need to meet their writing goals. Students, faculty, and staff can receive feedback on any writing project, at any stage of the writing process. The center's well-trained peer consultants can help brainstorm ideas, organize content, integrate research, and/or polish a draft. The goal of these writing consultations is to help writers help themselves--not just with that single piece of writing, but also to become better writers overall. Information regarding writing center services can be found in the Undergraduate Information section of the catalog or online at

Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships

The Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships, located in 120 Niemeyer Hall on the Allendale Campus, assists Grand Valley students who show extraordinary potential in disciplines all across campus in preparing and applying for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships. Those include the Boren, Fulbright, Gates Cambridge, Gilman, Goldwater, Marshall, Rhodes, Truman, Udall, and more. The staff matches opportunities with students' strengths, interests, and ambitions; helps students design a plan to attain their goals; and provides support throughout the application process. To learn more, visit

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 the development of writing skills through critique and revision is a major component of course assignments and grading. 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.

Awards, Scholarships, and Scholarship Events

Arend D. and Nancy Lubbers Honors College Scholarship

Barbara H. Padnos International Scholarship

Brooks College Scholarship for Study Abroad

Crawley Japanese Studies Scholarship

Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Project Internship Fund

Empowering Haiti Through Education Scholarship

Frederik Meijer Honors College Service-Learning

Jean Enright Scholarship (Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Jonathan & Marcia White Honors College Scholarship

Mark A. Elizabeth C. Murray Study Abroad Scholarship

Mary A. and Wilhelm W. Seeger Global Programs Scholarship

Meijer First Generation Honors Student Campus Sustainability Advisory Board Scholarship

Nichols Sustainability Scholarship

Peace and Justice Advocacy Award

Ruth Chamberlain Global Issues Scholarship

Student Sustainability Fund

Sustainability Reinvestment Fund

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:

  • Frederik Meijer Office of Fellowships
  • General education
  • Integrative learning and advising
  • Padnos International Center
  • Sustainability practices
  • Writing Center

Advisory Boards and Councils

Campus Sustainability Advisory Board

Digital Studies

Environmental Studies

Global Studies and Social Impact

Human Rights

Kutsche Office of Local History

Latin American and Latino/a Studies

Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Initiative

Religious Studies

Sustainable Agriculture Project

Community Resources

Kutsche Office of Local History

Lake Michigan Writing Project

Office of Community Partnerships and Student Professional Development

Office of Sustainability Practices

Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Symposium

Sustainable Agriculture Project

Program Descriptions

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