Advisory Council

Simone Jonaitis

Simone Jonaitis, Chair

Dr. Simone Jonaitis has worked in higher education for more than 20 years.  She is currently the Executive Director for the Center of Adult and Continuing Studies at GVSU where her professional responsibilities are focused on providing access to higher education for adults learners and returning students. She spent several years living in Central American where she taught English as a second language and administered language programs.  Simone earned her Ph.D at Michigan State University and is a member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Levi Rickert

Levi Rickert, Vice chair

Levi Rickert is the publisher and editor of Native News Online, one on America’s most read daily American Indian publications. In addition, he was recently named the editor-in-chief of the Tribal Business Journal that was launched in March 2016. Rickert is a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and is the former executive director of the North American Indian Center of Grand Rapids. He has served as president of the Grand Rapids Historical Commission; vice chair of the City of Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission; board member of Camp Blodgett; and member of the Secchia Millennium Commission. In addition to the GVSU Native American Advisory Board, he currently serves on the GVSU Kutsche Office of Local History Advisory Council. Rickert is also the author of several published essays. His most recent, “Indian Pride” appears in "Voice on the Water: Great Lakes Native America Now," (December 2011, Northern Michigan University Press).


Kimberly McKee

Kimberly McKee, Project Director

Dr. Kimberly D. McKee directs the Kutsche Office of Local History in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, which manages the Gi-gikinomaage-min Project. As Project Director, Dr. McKee is an ex-officio member of the Project's Advisory Council.

Dr. McKee is currently Assistant Professor of Liberal Studies at Grand Valley State University. She comes to the position of Director with a rich background in working with community-based organizations. She has been the Assistant Director of the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network since 2011, and has also worked with the New York Governor’s Committee on Scholastic Achievement and with the Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America. With a Ph.D. in Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University, a M.Sc. in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics, and B.A. from The George Washington University in International Affairs, Dr. McKee is the author of over eight referred papers since arriving at GVSU. Her book Beyond Grateful: The Transnational Politics of Adoption (tentative title) is under contract with the University of Illinois Press.


Belinda Bardwell

Lin Bardwell

Belinda Bardwell holds a Master's degree in Public Administration with a concentration in Public Management (GVSU, '17) and a B.S. in Liberal Studies (GVSU, '14), and is an accomplished community leader.  Lin is a commissioner for the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission (6 yrs), and is a board member for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (2 yrs). She has served as project coordinator and spokesperson for the "Gi-gikinomaage-min (We are all teachers): Defend Our History, Unlock Your Spirit" initiative since its launch in August 2014. She is also a member of the Gi-gikinomaage-min Advisory Council. Lin serves as the project's lead oral historian and is a proud citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians located in Harbor Springs, Michigan.  She is also a proud parent to four beautiful children who keep her on her toes.  

To Contact Belinda: [email protected]

Annie Benefiel

Annie Benefiel

Annie Benefiel is the Archivist for Collection Management in the GVSU Special Collections & University Archives. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Ball State University and a masters’ degree in library and information science  and archives management from Simmons College. Before coming to Grand Valley in 2014, she worked in archives and special collections libraries at the University of Florida, Yale University, and Ball State University. She is interested in literary manuscripts,  personal digital archives, and community archives.



Hunter Genia

Hunter Genia is a consultant for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration and White Bison. He is a business owner of Resilience Counseling and Consultation. He is a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) and Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CAADC) and graduate of Grand Valley State University (1999). Hunter serves as a board member of the Saginaw, Swan Creek, and Black River Band of Ojibway and also Grand River Band of Ottawa descent. He previously served as the Behavioral Health Administrator for 14 years at the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe and also served on the National Tribal Advisory Committee for IHS in the Bemidji Region. Hunter spent the first 30 years of his life in Grand Rapids before moving to Mt. Pleasant, MI, where he currently resides. He is most proud to be the dad of Endaanmuk (Anthony), Wasayabun (Joseph), and Waboose (Hunter Jr.), his three sons.

Steven Naganashe Perry

Steven Naganashe Perry

Steven (Naganashe) Perry has been working for decades in educational settings to ensure that Native traditions, history, culture, art, and language are preserved. A decorated veteran, the federal government has honored him for his service to Native Veterans and residents of federal and state prisons. He was Remote Command Post director in Gulfport, Mississippi with the Choctaw Tribe during Hurricane Katrina.  He served as statewide Board President for United Three Fires Against Violence (UTFAV) and co-chair of the AIM Western Michigan chapter. He is an activist and has been involved in numerous campaigns about the environment, wildlife, racism and water. In addition to his service on this board, he currently serves on the GVSU Advisory Council to the Kusche History project, and the NASA pow wow committee. Steven received a bachelor’s degree in business from Lake Superior State University, a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Ashford University, and a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in Native American studies from American University. He recently completed the course requirements for a Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Management. He is also a Kellogg Post Graduate Fellow of the Harvard University Educational Management program and the University Of California, Berkeley Executive Leadership Institute. Steven descends from The Naganashe family of Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (Waganakising) and The Pine (Shingwauk) family of Garden River Ojibwe Reserve (Kitigan-zeeping) in Ontario.


Matt Schultz

Matt Schultz

Matt Schultz is the Metadata & Digital Curation Librarian at the Grand Valley State University Libraries. Schultz is an alumnus of GVSU where he graduated in 2007 with a BA in History. He received a Master of Science in Information (MSI) in 2009 from the University of Michigan where he specialized in Archives & Records Management. He is passionate about issues related to human rights, transitional justice, social memory, and trauma studies. When he is not working and studying he enjoys spending time with his family, and running and mountain biking Michigan’s trails. Matt is a citizen of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi.


Melanie Shell-Weiss

Melanie Shell-Weiss

Dr. Melanie Shell-Weiss is a founding member of the Gi-gikinomaage-min Project team and former Director of the Kutsche Office of Local History (2013-2016). An Associate Professor of Liberal Studies, Dr. Shell-Weiss is an oral and public history specialist. Her recent work includes curating numerous exhibitions (Walking Beyond Our Ancestors' Footsteps: An Urban Native American Experience (2015-2016), Our Asian and Pacific American Communities (2016), Nuestra Comunidad Hispana (2015), and Retrato de mi Comunidad/Portrait of My Community (2014), among others), two books (Coming to Miami: A Social History (University Press of Florida, 2009) and Florida's Working Class Past: Three Centuries of Labor in the Sunshine State (University Press of Florida, 2009)), as well as numerous articles and book chapters. She has directed several public oral history projects, including efforts in Florida, Maryland, Illinois, and Michigan. Her current research focuses Grand Rapids' urban Native American history.


Courtney Sherwood

Courtney Sherwood (Recording Secretary)

Courtney Sherwood is office coordinator for the Kutsche Office of Local History and serves as Recording Secretary for the Gi-gikinomaage-min Project. A Grand Haven native, Courtney began working at GVSU in 2002. She has worked in the Dean’s Office of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for eight years, wearing many hats including providing grant support.  Courtney holds a B.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Norwich University. Courtney began her work with the Kutsche Office in February 2014, and is an ex-officio member of the Project's Advisory Council.


Patty Stow Bolea

Patty Stow Bolea

Patty Stow Bolea is Professor of Social Work at GVSU.  She has a shared appointment in the GVSU School of Social Work, and the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center. Both locations facilitate work toward inclusive excellence in higher education.  She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ball State University and a master’s degree in Social Work from Indiana University. She earned her Ph.D. at Michigan State University.  Her primary teaching assignments focus on individual clinical social work practice, as well as trauma in children and adolescents.  She has been working with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe for over 11 years in a joint cross cultural immersion course at GVSU. Outside of her professional responsibilities she enjoys time with her family, reading, and travel.

Relevant publication: Bolea, P.S. (2012) Cross-cultural service learning with Native Americans: Pedagogy for building cultural competence. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 32,3; 284-299.


Page last modified April 25, 2018