Interdisciplinarity in CLAS

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, by virtue of its breadth and variety, is home to many interdisciplinary programs, courses, projects and connections. Whether by their nature or through the creativity and ingenuity of the faculty and students, these programs, courses and project reach across established disciplines to handle broad or complex problems using methodologies that are shared or synergized.

Interdisciplinary approaches in the College take many forms ranging from team taught courses to pooled skill sets for a single project. Here are highlights or recent work undertaken within the College and with disciplines and partners outside the College.

Research Cluster discussion

CLAS Research Clusters

Starting in 2011, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences brought together interested faculty with scholarly and creative interests in five areas: Borders, Brain, Health, Urban, and Water. All clusters are open to CLAS faculty as well as faculty from other GVSU colleges. Additional support in the form of grant opportunities, conference announcements, and other information is provided to these self-selected groups.

Research Clusters are collaborative teams of faculty and students from different disciplines who work together on research projects and to exchange ideas, in each of these important and relevant areas.

Clusters welcome participation by scholars across the university.

Comprehensive Science & Arts for Teaching (CSAT)

The major allowing teacher certification for Special Education at Grand Valley State University has changed in order to more closely align our program with the new State Board of Education standards. Grand Valley has developed a new major, Comprehensive Science and Arts for Teaching (CSAT), which has an emphasis in Special Education for those seeking certification in this area.

Archaeology Minor

Archaeology Minor

Archaeology is the study of the breadth and diversity of human experience through analysis of material culture, from the earliest appearance of humankind to the recent past. The Archaeology Minor at Grand Valley is a collaborative interdepartmental program that welcomes students in every academic major and program.

A minor in Archaeology opens the way to many interesting career opportunities. Students who complete the Archaeology Minor often pursue graduate training or find employment in areas such as writing or publishing, law, museums and galleries, communications, and government service. The Archaeology Minor is also compatible with pre-professional programs such as business, nursing, and engineering.

Integrated Science

The Integrated Science major is designed for students seeking certification to teach at the elementary and/or middle school level. It provides the student with broad exposure in all the sciences and emphasizes the connections between the scientific disciplines, their relationship with technology, and their relevance to society. In addition, a significant amount of time is dedicated to different teaching and learning styles, some of which are modeled in various courses.

Veterans History Project logo

Veterans History Project at GVSU

As part of GVSU’s participation in the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, students and faculty of History and documentary makers in the School of Communications worked together to produce a 50 minute WWII documentary entitled “Nightmare in New Guinea”, featuring West Michigan’s own red Arrow Brigade. The Library of Congress Veterans History Project is ongoing at GVSU, boasting an extensive and still growing collection of videotaped veterans’ interviews. (Contact: Jim Smither)

Greek Ceramics Project

Greek Ceramics Project

The Greek Ceramics Project began in Fall 2000, soon after the founding of the Department of Classics, as the result of interdisciplinary collaboration between Art & Design and Classics. Participants have researched, designed, and created vases modeled upon ancient Greek pottery. Students examine Greek originals during an annual field trip to the Toledo Museum of Art. Students not only learn about the various types, uses and artistic achievement embodied by real examples of classical pottery, they also choose a particular vessel style, select a historically accurate motif and get to work making it. Their vases are the products of many hours in the Ceramics Studio during the two-week project. In 2004, the Art Gallery purchased and displayed three student pots. The Classics Department displays a small selection of pots in Lake Huron Hall. (Contacts: Diane Rayor and Hoon Lee)

Cell & Molecular Biology

The Bachelor of Science in Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) prepares students for employment or graduate training in cell and molecular biology, biotechnology and biomedical research. This interdisciplinary program draws its faculty and courses from the Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics departments. A unique and critical part of the CMB degree is the independent research/internship students will participate in. Each student will have a research mentor from the faculty of one of the participating departments or from an area business or research institute, ensuring that students will get practical experience conducting original research in an area of their interest. The CMB major is designed to help students gain a comprehensive understanding cell and molecular biology. We believe it is vital for students at the undergraduate level to become familiar with the major principles and unifying concepts of chemistry, physics and biology which define CMB. Thus, the curriculum introduces all of these fields while still providing flexibility. CMB majors, in consultation with their advisors, are able to tailor programs to fit career needs or interests

Ancient Bronze Casting Project

Ancient Bronze Casting Project

The Ancient Bronze Casting project has pooled the expertise of faculty in Classics, Art & Design and Engineering. Faculty and students in this all volunteer project model, mold and caste bronzes in the classical style using both modern and ancient methods. (Contacts: Melissa Morison and Norwood Viviano)

See Classics website for video of the pouring of the bronze and additional photos.

Statistical Analysis of Millage Proposal

Statistical Analysis of Millage Proposal

Interdisciplinary work is almost always involved when Gown meets Town. John Gabrosek’s statistic class discovered on behalf of the city of Roosevelt Park voter attitudes toward a millage increase proposal.

Carol Griffin

Leadership in Resource Management

The interdisciplinary strengths of CLAS faculty are recognized as a leadership asset by external bodies. For example, Carol "Griff" Griffin, Ph.D. is GVSU's Director of the General Education Program and Associate Professor, Natural Resources Management. She is also, according to Connie Myers, Director of the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center , "among a select group of leaders in the wilderness community who have demonstrated knowledge of the current threats to wilderness, challenges faced by managers and users of Wilderness, and an interest in working across boundaries to address these challenges." For these reasons, Griff was invited to apply her leadership and vision to establish and formalize the roles and operating structure of a professional organization for wilderness stewardship.



When the average resident of West Michigan thinks about the natural land in the region, they might think it has no value. They would be wrong-by at least $1.7 billion. That's the minimum total value associated with green infrastructure in the seven-county West Michigan region. The total--representing some, but not all acreage in the region--was carefully estimated using a new tool called INVEST: INtegrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services Tool. The tool is available online for government planners and citizens to view:

Led by researchers at AWRI and Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University, along with colleagues at Michigan State University, the tool was developed in cooperation with the West Michigan Strategic Alliance (WMSA) as part of its Green Infrastructure Initiative. People and Land and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided funding for the project.

INVEST allows users to see that there are dollar values associated with environmental assets. The estimates can be viewed at the regional or county level for different types of land use, including croplands and orchards, forest and prairie, water and wetlands, or dunes and beaches. Economic values were determined for these land uses by considering the benefits they provide to the human population, which include: producing food, supplying raw materials, providing fish and wildlife habitat, controlling erosion, assimilating waste, filtering and supplying water, cycling nutrients, and providing aesthetic and recreational value. The online tool lets users see the details of how each value was estimated, along with a relative confidence level for each estimate.

CLAS Faculty are interviewed on the third Thursday of the month on Shelley Irwin's radio show on WGVU.

Hear Jodee Hunt describe her interdisciplinary work benefiting the people of Nicaragua.

Hear Jim Schaub of the School of Communications speaks on his documentary "Up From the Bottoms--African American Migration to Muskegon, Michigan".

Hear Azizur Molla of Anthropology speaks on his work to protect us from radon gas.

Hear Carmen Nochera of Biomedical Sciences speaks on her research involving the production of breadfruit flour to address world hunger.

Additional interviews.

GVSU Lip Dub

GVSU LipDub Sails Away with the Campus

News & Information Services--The song "Come Sail Away," by Styx, was selected for Grand Valley's project, which includes more than a dozen locations and celebrates the university's 50th Anniversary. Performers include President Thomas J. Haas and Marcia Knapp Haas, Louie the Laker, the national champion Rowing Crew, ballroom dancers and student organizations, individual students, faculty members and staff. "Nothing of this magnitude has been attempted by any other university so far," said Kim Roberts, associate professor in the School of Communications and project supervisor.

See it on YouTube

Team Reduces Runoff

A multidisciplinary team funded by Michigan Sea Grant to investigate cost effective strategies for reducing storm water runoff in the Spring Lake watershed is directed by Al Steinman of AWRI. Also on the team are GIS specialist Kurt Thompson, an economist, a communication specialist, a policy expert, and several engineers.

The Music of Italian Poetry

The Music of Italian Poetry

A composition class in the Music Department set to music stories in Italian written by Modern Language students. The performance of these works—complete with subtitles and visual montage-- at the Italy and the Sea event commemorating Italy Week was a hit with students as well as members of the Italian community, including the Italian Consul to the United States. (Contacts: Bill Ryan and Gisella Licari )

Page last modified June 23, 2016