Skip to main content

Visit LAKERS TOGETHER for COVID policies and information. Face coverings required indoors.

2020-2021 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

Search Help

Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies


Interim Dean: Schaub

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 environmental and sustainability studies; global studies and social impact; integrative studies; religious studies; and women, gender, and sexuality studies. Minors are available in African/African American studies; digital studies; East Asian studies; environmental and sustainability 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 universitywide 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.

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, today's students will work in areas that increasingly rely on digital tools and platforms to create and share information. Through 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

Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Environmental and sustainability studies draws upon a variety of disciplines arts and humanities, physical and life sciences, and economic and policy studies to develop a holistic, place-based, and solutions-oriented understanding of environmental and sustainability challenges. While all aspects of humans' interaction with their environments may be relevant to environmental and sustainability studies, areas of particular interest include sustainable food systems, energy and climate change, water quality, and the cultural and built environment.

The major combines academic foundations in various disciplines with practical experience in interdisciplinary research and problem-solving to prepare graduates to work effectively in business, nonprofit, civic, or governmental roles that support sustainability and environmental responsibility. Students pursue either a B.A. or B.S. degree. The minor is structured for students in any major who have a strong interest in environmental and sustainability issues. The sustainable food systems certificate provides skills and experience necessary to address the role of food in community life. For more information, visit

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 21st century human rights issues both locally and globally. Students 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

Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies

The Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural 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 integrative 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 meet with any integrative studies faculty member. The department also offers a certificate and a badge in intercultural training, both give students skills to interact effectively with people who differ from themselves in values, culture, and life experiences.

Religious Studies

Housed within the Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural 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. Close collaboration with faculty through advising, student-centered coursework, and independent study opportunities is an important part of the 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 ( 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 Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural 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.

Advisory Boards and Councils

Campus Sustainability

Digital Studies

Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Global Studies and Social Impact

International Education

Human Rights

Kutsche Office of Local History

Latin American and Latino/a Studies

Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Program

Religious Studies

Sustainable Agriculture Project

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 Grand Valley and its curriculum. PIC hosts international scholars as well as incoming international students. For more information, visit

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

Design Thinking Academy

The Design Thinking Academy (DTA) offers selected Grand Valley State University students the experience, application, and credentialing of design thinking to gain an advantage for employment in a complex world. The mission of the DTA is to prepare students as innovative thinkers/problem solvers who contribute/lead to finding solutions to civic, social, and business challenges of the future. The DTA's collaborative work and community partnerships help organizations and businesses in West Michigan find solutions to challenges they face. To apply to the DTA or for more information, visit

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. For more information, visit

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 supports local history and cultural heritage institutions, organizations, and practitioners in West Michigan through expertise, networking, and collaborative projects. This is done in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, interdisciplinary research and teaching initiatives; serving as a resource to more fully document, preserve, and make known the histories of underrepresented/marginalized groups in West Michigan; an internship program that places Grand Valley students in opportunities both on and off campus; and annual programming that supports the office's mission and connects Grand Valley faculty and students with community members around areas of common interest. Current programs include the annual Local History Roundtable, Engaging the Community Series, and Youth Leadership Initiative. Information about programs and upcoming events can be found on the Kutsche Office website at

Lake Michigan Writing Project

The Lake Michigan Writing Project 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.

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 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 supports Grand Valley administration, faculty, staff, students, and community members to foster a culture of sustainability by designing and implementing programs, while supporting policies to encourage sustainable behaviors and responsible global citizen-stewards. Social responsibility, cultural values, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship are the core values of sustainability, aimed at the preservation of society for future generations. The Office of Sustainability Practices helps to ensure projects are informed by sustainable best practices through advocating for awareness, education, and engagement in all topics related to sustainability, including water, energy, transportation, purchasing, and others. To learn more, please visit

Sustainable Agriculture Project

The Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) is a collaborative initiative to seed sustainable practices, foster leadership and learning, and grow community. Housed in the Brooks College, the SAP serves the entire campus community by providing a farm on the Allendale Campus to stimulate experiential education, where faculty, staff, students, and community members are invited to get hands-on involvement in all aspects related to sustainable agriculture. Environmental stewardship, efficient production, food justice, and food literacy are core components to the SAP's philosophy. To learn more about opportunities for internships, research grants, class visits, tours, and purchasing produce from the farm, visit

Student Services and Campuswide 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 Grand Valley general education requirements. SWS courses are writing-intensive, meaning the development of writing skills through critique and revision is a major component of course assignments and grading. Grand Valley requires students to 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 or at

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 and 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 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

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.