About the Department
What We Do
The programs that make up IRIS: The Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies Department share a commitment to offering flexible degree pathways to support students of all backgrounds, identities, and walks of life. Our award-winning faculty put students first. With six academic programs that can be tailored to meet individual needs and interests, we help students to maximize their tuition investment by learning specific, transferrable skills that are in demand by employers today.
Rooted in the values of liberal learning, those skills include an emphasis on critical thinking, development of strong written and oral communication abilities, complex reasoning, creativity, and interdisciplinary inquiry that is rooted in the humanities and social sciences while also drawing upon STEM. All of our programs emphasize the value of ethical reasoning, intercultural competence, and global mindedness.
Courses offered by the department are rigorous. We set a high bar for academic standards, including research and professional integrity. We also appreciate that people learn differently. Our faculty and support staff provide direct, hands-on support to ensure that our students thrive.
95% of students successfully complete their degrees.
77.4% graduate in 6 years or less.
Nearly 100% report finding jobs that directly use skills from their majors within 3 years of graduation.
Who We Are
Our faculty support students on Grand Valley's Allendale, Grand Rapids, Holland, Traverse City, and Detroit campuses. The department is made up of 20 full-time faculty members and 35-40 dedicated adjunct faculty. One full-time office coordinator, Lynnette Keen, serves all of the department's programs. We work closely with the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies as well as the Brooks College Office of Integrative Learning and Advising.
Professional advisors who serve our students include: Jennifer Jameslyn (Director, Office of Integrative Learning and Advising), Kate VanderKolk (Center for Adult and Continuing Studies), and Jackie Abeyta (Traverse City Campus).
Faculty teaching in IRIS represent the values of diversity, interdisciplinarity, and excellence that we teach our students:
- More than 3/4 of our faculty were first-generation-to-college students themselves, including faculty who studied as undergraduates at GVSU.
- 35.4% of our full-time faculty are people of color.
- 47% of our full-time faculty are members of marginalized or under-represented groups, including LGBTQ+, non-US citizens, among others.
- Members of our faculty also include veterans, individuals who are multi-lingual, and immigrants.
- For the past 8 years, our faculty have won at least 1 (and often more than 1) prestigious university award every year in addition to national and international awards.
- We rank among the top department's university-wide for scholarly productivity.
- Quality of faculty teaching, measured by student feedback, peer observation, and external recognition/awards, is among the absolute highest of any department across the university.
- 100% of our faculty say their favorite part of working at GVSU is teaching.
Our Main Office is located on GVSU's Allendale Campus in 324 LOH.
We are open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST
Ms. Lynnette Keen is the office coordinator for all of the academic programs in IRIS. She joined the department full-time in April 2018. She holds a BA in English and Journalism from Calvin College and brings with her over 12 years of experience as an admissions advisor at Baker College. She has also held positions at Herman Miller and the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.
She is often the first person that students see or hear when contacting the department and is a terrific source of information and assistance with all aspects of registration, scheduling, helping to find advising appointments, as well as supporting our department's events planning, outreach efforts, internal meetings, and administrative work. Want to learn more about the department? Have a question about your classes or how to enroll? Give Lynnette a call today or send her an email and she will be happy to help.
Academic Program Coordinator, IRIS
Dr. Kimberly McKee
Dr. Kimberly McKee, Department Chair
Department Chair: Dr. Kimberly McKee
Kimberly McKee is an associate professor in integrative, religious, and intercultural studies at Grand Valley State University. She is the author of Disrupting Kinship: Transnational Politics of Korean Adoption in the United States (University of Illinois Press, 2019) and co-editor of Degrees of Difference: Reflections of Women of Color on Graduate School (University of Illinois Press, 2020). Her current book manuscript, tentatively titled, Adoption Fantasies: The Commodification of Asian Adoptees from Girlhood to Womanhood (Ohio State University Press, under contract), considers the reverberations and effects of sensationalist and fictional adoption portrayals in the lives of adopted women and girls. The monograph interrogates the limits and contours of multiculturalism and colorblindness, analyzing racialized and sexualized popular culture representations of Asian adopted women and girls from 1992 to 2015. McKee serves as a co-chair of the executive committee for the Alliance of the Study of Adoption and Culture. She received her Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University.
Assistant Department Chair: Dr. Krista Benson
Krista Benson is an assistant professor in the Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies Department at Grand Valley State University and one of the managing editors of Feral Feminisms. Their research and teaching focuses on anti-racist and decolonial feminist approaches to prison abolition and the relationship between reproductive justice and systems of care for children, including adoption, foster care, and the juvenile justice system. They teach in the Integrative Studies major, Digital Studies minor, LBGT minor, and within the LEADS program at GVSU.
Dr. Krista Benson, Assistant Department Chair
Professor Justin Pettibone, Assistant Department Chair
Assistant Department Chair: Professor Justin Pettibone
Justin Pettibone graduated with an M.A. in Continental Philosophy from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Prior to that, he graduated from the Liberal Studies Department at GVSU, focusing on Intellectual History. He has taught for the department since 2008. In recent years, Prof. Pettibone has worked as the coordinator of the Accelerated Leadership Program, developed courses for the new LEADS program, collaborated with colleagues in the Writing and History departments to teach connected courses in the First Year Learning Communities, and designed and led a study abroad program to Chile with colleagues from GVSU's TRIO office.