Returning to campus, IRIS awards, ENS students win award, SAP, Study Abroad
Returning to campus, IRIS awards, ENS students win award, SAP, Study Abroad
Grand Valley State University
Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Newsletter July 2020
Headshot of Mark Schaub, interim dean of Brooks College
Interim Dean Mark Schaub

Dean's Message

“Leis go brown, tectonic plates shift, deep currents move, islands vanish, rooms get forgotten.”
                               ― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
I may or may not be seeing you at the convocation on 28 August. Or even a convocation. That event is just one more of the uncertainties of this year. Thankfully, there are plenty of certainties. And plenty of reasons to be thankful for them. We will be teaching and supporting students 31 August and beyond, as the new academic year begins. Students are registered for our courses, and we will be fully engaged in teaching those courses as best we can. I’m eager to meet mask-to-mask with the students in section 3, INT 100, along with Maureen Wolverton (with whom I’ll be teaching). I’m thankful for the rest of the certainties, too: great colleagues, great support units, and a great tradition of GVSU excellence. I choose to focus on that success. I choose to celebrate that.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to emerge from the tumble of the past year is the new LEADS program for working adults. What last November was an audacious and ambitious idea is now a certainty. There are over 112 students fully registered for the LEADS courses, certificates, badges, and—most importantly—degrees. It’s real!
The adult learner model of LEADS aligns with Brooks College’s host department, Integrative, Religious, & Intercultural Studies (IRIS), and its long-time commitment to the social justice of supporting higher education for all. President Mantella got LEADS rolling, just months into her first year at GVSU. Her will to provide more opportunity for the working adults across Michigan, and her commitment to unleashing energy in that direction, was met with like-minded leaders in getting us to this point: Provost Cimitile, Ellen Schendel, and of course, Melanie Shell-Weiss. Plus another dozen faculty colleagues working this summer to further develop the master courses for LEADS. The LEADS program may well be President Mantella’s signature achievement in her first year as GVSU President, and promises to be the signature success for IRIS, and for Brooks College, in an otherwise rough 2020.
The framework for LEADS provides much optimism, on top of the apparent popularity of the opportunity for students. Digital Studies Director Laurence José and I have already discussed creation of the fifth certificate/emphasis area for the program: Digital Studies. More additions are being considered.
Year 2020 is barely half over. The challenges this year have been many. There are challenges before us, too. But our focus—always—is on the students. Thank you for choosing to join us as we prepare to serve them!

Returning to Campus

Faculty and staff returning to campus as part of Grand Valley's ramp-up to Fall 2020 are required to complete the COVID-19 employee training prior to returning to the workplace.
New norms have been established for shared spaces including workrooms with copy machines, microwaves, etc. Each space will be overseen by its respective unit. The dean's office has established the following norms for the 2nd-floor workroom in Lake Ontario Hall:
  • One person at a time in the workroom
  • Face coverings are required
  • Faculty and staff are expected to sanitize anything they touch while using the workroom
  • Coffee machines and the water kettle have been removed
  • Shared dishes (including disposable dishes) have been removed
For any questions regarding your work schedule, work expectations, the needs of your area, and to discuss your personal circumstances, consult with your supervisor. Regularly review the Lakers Together site for the most up-to-date information.
Headshots of Ivy Baillie and Amanda Niswander
Ivy Baillie (left) and Amanda Niswander (right)

Traverse City Students Win IRIS Thesis Awards

This year's Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies (IRIS) Outstanding Thesis Awards went to two Traverse City Regional Center students.
Ivy Baillie won the Stanley Krohmer Senior Project Award for her project, "Identity and Amateur Literature." Amanda Niswander won the Wendy J. Wenner Thesis Award for her thesis, "Building Communities for Restorative Justice." On June 16, Ivy and Amanda presented their thesis projects as part of a virtual award ceremony. Ivy said, "As a lifelong writer encountering some post-graduation reflection, I sought to explore deeply personal themes of identity and authenticity in the context of unpublished, or amateur, literature. My work was not only a practice in vulnerability, as I drew from intensely private journals, but an homage to gifted writers whose works will never see a publishing house."
Ivy is now embarking on a freelance writing career, where she hopes to expand on concepts investigated in her thesis. She said it feels surreal to graduate after dropping out of college a few years ago. "When I felt the spark again, I stumbled upon the IRIS department. It has allowed me to independently navigate my own interests—a freedom that allowed me to finally thrive."
Amanda shared, "My senior thesis focused on the criminal justice system and how current ideologies have led to the United States having the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the developed world. I went further to investigate the role of the community in criminal justice and the potential of implementing restorative practices in schools and juvenile justice systems to transform the way we approach crime. I have always had a passion for the law, but my experience in the Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies department allowed me to expand my worldview and ignited a desire to make a difference."
Amanda plans to participate in restorative practices training. Her goal is to work with communities to implement systems that reflect the goals and values of restorative justice and individual communities.
For more information about the IRIS program, visit
Team Further Food poses for a group photo
Clockwise from top left: Margaux Sellnau, Julia Majewski, Kelsey Cunningham, Caroline Majewski and Christian Czernik

ENS alum's team wins $10,000 in global innovation competition

Margaux Sellnau, ’20, and a team of four other college students were awarded second place and a cash prize of $10,000 at the 2020 Wege Prize competition.
The Wege Prize is an annual competition focused on addressing systemic issues through developing circular economic models to drive change in the way we take, make, and dispose of goods.
This international competition is organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD). The 2020 Wege Prize received submissions from 29 teams, representing 24 countries, 64 academic institutions and 100 academic disciplines.
Sellnau’s team, known as Further Food, developed a model for transforming unused food from campus dining services into packaged meals made available to students, while leftover waste is diverted to an on-campus composting facility. Read the full article on GVNext.

Volunteering at the Sustainable Agriculture Project

Faculty and staff are now able to volunteer at the Sustainable Agriculture Project. Shifts are scheduled on Thursdays from 9:00 - 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 - 3:30 p.m. Volunteers are required to watch a training video and follow COVID-19 safety protocols during shifts. Students will be able to volunteer once face-to-face classes resume.
For more information and to sign-up to volunteer, visit the SAP website.

Study Abroad Connects Lakers Around Globe on Social Media

Despite COVID 19, the Padnos International Center (PIC) has been keeping Lakers connected around the globe. PIC has been inviting study abroad students, alumni, faculty-directors, and partners at universities abroad to "takeover" their social media accounts. This gives students the opportunity to connect with people around the world and for alumni to share their experiences, photos, and videos from their time abroad. A typical GVSU Study Abroad takeover has several hundred viewers and students are able to engage by asking questions. PIC also hosts Live Instagram sessions which allow followers to engage in a live conversation with students, faculty, and partners abroad. To learn more, follow PIC on Instagram and Snapchat or email Alissa Lane.

Faculty and Staff Updates

Anne Caillaud, professor of French, will return to Brooks College as interim chair of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies for the 2020-21 academic year.
Ginele Johnson is now supporting Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, in addition to Human Rights and Digital Studies. Ginele's new office is located in Lake Ontario Hall, Room 229.
Justine Kibet is shifting to a new role focusing solely on supporting Environmental and Sustainability Studies. Justine's new office will be located in Lake Michigan Hall, Room 167.

Faculty, Staff, and Student Recognition

Alissa Lane, Outreach Coordinator in the Padnos International Center, has been selected as the next Communication Coordinator for the NAFSA Association of International Educators, Region V.
Naomi Silas, Professional Master’s in Social Innovation (PMASI) grad student and PMASI grad assistant, published an article, "Community Activism in Response to Dehumanization & Policing Methods," in Medium. Naomi researched and wrote the piece during a Fall 2019 PMASI course.
Tamela Spicer, Professional Master’s in Social Innovation (PMASI) grad student and Program Manager for the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, wrote a blog post for the Johnson Center titled, "Capacity Building for Resilience Part 2: Adapting to a VUCA Environment," based on research conducted in her Social Innovation 620 Case Studies course.

Calendar and Deadlines

July 30: Teaching SWS Online Workshop: Basic Principles, Quick Tips
August 1: Classes end - 2nd 6 and 12 weeks
August 3-4: Final exams - 2nd 6 and 12 weeks
August 10: Grades due from faculty by 12:00 p.m.
August 20: Brooks College Fall 2020 Virtual Start-up Meeting
August 28: Convocation 2020
October 10: Class of 2020 commencement ceremony at Van Andel Arena
Join our mailing list so you never miss a Brooks College newsletter.
View previous issues in our newsletter archive.
Twitter Facebook
Unsubscribe from future emails.
Subscribe to our email list.