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Grand Valley State University    
2015-2016 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog 
  Sep 19, 2018
2015-2016 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies


Dean: Hiskes

Associate Dean: Schendel


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 Brooks college is: connecting diverse interdisciplinary communities and cultivating innovative liberal learning.

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 Chinese studies, liberal studies, religious studies, and women, gender and sexuality studies; and minors in African/African American studies, East Asian studies, environmental studies, Latin American studies, LGBTQ studies, Middle East studies, religious studies, and women, gender and sexuality studies. 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, 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.

Center for Adult and Continuing Studies

The Center for Adult and Continuing Studies provides programs and services that link the needs of lifelong learners with the resources of the university. The Center for Adult and Continuing Studies coordinates academic programs and services at regional sites and locations throughout Michigan, as well as through professional development and community engagement opportunities. Information regarding professional development and Grand Forum can be found in the Community Resources section of the catalog. Information regarding nontraditional student assistance, programs and locations, can be found in the Center for Adult and Continuing Studies section of the catalog.

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 Meijer 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 Meijer Honors College information can be found in the Meijer Honors College section of the catalog.  Honors courses are team taught, blocked sequentially, and offer an interdisciplinary approach to general education.

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.

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. The purpose of the Office of Integrative Learning and Advising is to help students transcend boundaries between academic, personal, and work life to become engaged, ethical, and academically proficient learners.

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

  • The Community Reading Project enhances the intellectual environment and culture of Grand Valley and its surrounding communities by encouraging the reading, appreciation, and discussion of books.
  • The Brooks College Co-curriculum offers collaborative educational experiences and events that encourage students to critique and shape their own educational paths within the context of an academic course.
  • 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.

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 the three-pronged approach of social justice, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship. The office connects faculty, 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 project activities that promote awareness about sustainable development and the application for sustainable best practices.

Global Institute for Big History

The Global Institute for Big History (GIBH), located at 110 LOH, 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.” 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 Leslye Allen. For more information, contact the office at (616) 331-8035 or IBHA Treasurer Professor Craig Benjamin can be reached 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.

Academic Units

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. Students may also wish to write or make an appointment with any one of the members of the liberal studies committee.

Religious Studies

Housed within the Liberal Studies Department, religious studies offers both a major and a minor. The religious studies major provides core courses along 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 is a good foundation for careers such as in law, business, journalism, public policy, international development, and humanitarian services. Understanding religious issues enhances one’s preparation for careers in such fields as criminal justice, international relations, education and government.

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

The women, gender, and sexuality studies (WGS) program at Grand Valley State University offers an interdisciplinary major and minor based on the scholarship of the study of women, men, lesbians, gays, transgendered, and bisexuals. WGS has close relationships with the Liberal Studies Department and the African/African American, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and East Asian programs. The WGS program works closely with GVSU’s Women’s Center, 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.

Areas Studies Programs

Area studies focus on the interdisciplinary study of the culture and issues of a particular world region.

  • African/African American studies (minor)
  • Middle East studies (minor)
  • Latin American studies (minor)
  • East Asian studies (minor)
  • Chinese studies (major)

Environmental Studies Minor

The environmental studies minor 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.

Student Services and Campus-wide Programs

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 writing quality is a major component of both the classroom requirement as well as the grade. 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.

Community Reading Project

The community reading project is a campus wide initiative designed to form reading communities that focus on a single, annual reading. Community groups, classes, faculty, and alumni are invited to join the groups.

Now going into its 11th year, the Community Reading Project (CRP) continues to carry on the tradition of providing the GVSU and surrounding community with the opportunity to engage in reading and discussing a selected text. Special events related to the topics and themes addressed in the CRP book selection are offered throughout the academic calendar, which culminates near the end of the winter semester, when the CRP book selection author or another distinguished lecturer is brought to campus to speak. Past CRP book selections and authors have included:

(2014-2015): Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

(2013-2014): The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande

(2012-2013): The Element by Sir Ken Robinson

(2011-2012): The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

(2010-2011): The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

(2009-2010): Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

(2008-2009): A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

(2007-2008): The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls

(2006-2007): The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

(2005-2006): The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Awards, Scholarships, and Scholarship Events

Arend D. and Nancy Lubbers Honors College Scholarship

Barbara H. Padnos International Scholarship

CEA Scholarship (Cultural Experiences Abroad)

Empowering Haiti Through Education Scholarship

Grand Forum Scholarship for Continuing Education

GVSU LGBT Scholarship Fund

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

Mark A.  Elizabeth C. Murray Study Abroad Scholarship

Nichols Sustainability Scholarship

Peace and Justice Advocacy Award

West Shore Aware LGBT Scholarship 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:

Adult and continuing studies

General education

Integrative learning and advising

Padnos International Center

Sustainability practices

Writing Center

Advisory Boards

Latin American Studies

Office of Sustainability Practices

Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Kutsche Office of Local History

Community Resources

Grand Forum

Professional Development

The Professional Development Partnership Program (for education and social work professionals)

Office of Sustainability Practices


Refer to the Community Resources section of the catalog for more information.