Diversity in Honors, Shaping Narratives, the Great Michigan Read, and more!
Diversity in Honors, Shaping Narratives, the Great Michigan Read, and more!
Grand Valley State University
Interim Dean Mark Schaub

Dean's Message

Every Year is LEAP Year (in Brooks College)
The end of this month is one of those “leap” years in which we are seemingly gifted with an extra day on the calendar, a February 29th. It happens just rarely enough to feel like both a novelty and a “free” day in our lives.  In this iteration, leap year happens to land on a weekday and therefore a workday—but at least it’s a Friday!
I’ve been around GVSU long enough to remember the 2004-06 efforts in connecting GVSU faculty, staff, and students to the American Council of Colleges & Universities’ (AACU) campaign, “Liberal Education and America’s Promise,” (LEAP) which reminded us all of the importance of a liberal education for individual students and for a broader nation whose success depends on economic creativity and democratic vitality.
All of the LEAP goals and liberal education efforts here at GVSU still pertain. Stronger than ever. Nowhere are these ideals more apparent than here in the curriculum and programming of the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies. With our innovative programs and some fast-growing Digital Studies, Environmental & Sustainability Studies, and Human Rights minor, we offer liberal education in ways that students want. And we prepare them with a foundation upon which they can build a living—living a lifetime of change.
…and there is no Groundhog Day
I’m not a cynic by nature, but I’ve been involved with the faculty/staff campaign here at GVSU and know that not everyone is as eager and excited by its recurrence like I am. Over the years in talking with faculty and staff colleagues about pledging and donating has led me to understand that some view it with resignation, and sometimes annoyance. “That time of the year again?” is a phrase I’ve heard from these colleagues. Yes, like Groundhog Day.
The protagonist in the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” is—for many weeks—cursed to endure the same annoyances of the same day over and over again until he “gets it right.” There are some parallels between GVSU’s annual Faculty/Staff Campaign and that cheesy and heteronormative—but still popular—romantic comedy:
  • Each involves something that happens over and over again
  • Each involves a goal of perfection, of eventually “nailing it”
  • Each involves getting it right so that one no longer has to be annoyed by the experience
Well, if you’ve read this far, please hang with me just a few more sentences, so I can tell you why I’m eager to give.
First I’ll tell you what does not make me give. I do not give because I feel the need, or listen to suggestions, that I need to “give back” to GVSU. For years I wrote checks to GVSU for a good portion of our sons’ tuition, until they earned their bachelor's degrees and moved on to enact their Laker Effects. I think of myself as working pretty hard on behalf of our students and earning my salary, and don’t “owe” my employer in that sense.
What does move me to give is what makes me love my work and what gets my body out of bed every morning, to drive out to the Allendale ranch: our hard-working and interesting and, increasingly, financially challenged students. I want to help these students succeed in any way I can, even if some in the state legislature don't always seem to share that desire.
I have other passions, too, and I’m sure you do: perhaps Michigan radio or the Jane Doe political campaign or United Way. But our employer doesn’t match our contributions to those other passions. It does match any contribution, however, that we make to GVSU student endowments. Our $ is doubled by GVSU. Or, give to the “Momentum Fund” to provide an immediate and impactful nudge for a student through an especially rough patch so they can continue towards their degree.
Thanks for reading this far. And thanks for thinking about supporting our students with your own (and GVSU’s) money. Next in this newsletter, you’ll find a few suggestions of Brooks-related funds through which you can support our students in additional ways.
Brooks College Study Away Scholarship: Started by Anne and Rich Hiskes, this fund generates need-based scholarships for Brooks College students to participate in the high-impact learning experience of a study away program.
The Momentum Fund: Despite being capable, not every student can afford a quality education. There are students sitting in classrooms who are facing emergencies, financial and otherwise, wondering how they will finish the semester. The Momentum Fund provides relatively small but very impactful and timely nudges from financial ruts to stay on track towards graduation.
Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Project Fund: The purpose of the fund is to honor Dave’s legacy by providing financial support for a “lead intern” at the Sustainable Agriculture Project who exemplifies Dave’s natural leadership and mentorship skills.
Jeff (“Dr. J”) Chamberlain Meijer Honors College Alumni Endowed Scholarship: This fund assists students and promotes diversity in the Frederik Meijer Honors College.
Latin American Studies Fund: Supports the scholarly and professional development of students minoring in Latin American Studies.
Jean Enright Scholarship: This fund assists students who participate in the Student Summer Scholars (S3) Program and who are conducting research in issues of social inequality in women and gender studies and/or history.
Global Programs Scholarship: The purpose of this scholarship is to provide financial assistance to students enrolled in a short-term study abroad program of fewer than eight weeks, including but not limited to faculty-led programs and overseas internships.
Roger Gilles, Director of the Honors College

Diversity in Honors

From Roger Gilles, Director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College
The faculty and staff of the Honors College welcome the conversation about diversity that began at the January 10 Brooks College (Re)Start Meeting. As Dean Schaub indicated, the lack of diversity in the Honors College is something we are well aware of, and we look forward to working with our campus partners, including everyone in Brooks College, to make the Honors College a welcoming place for all highly motivated Grand Valley students.
We aspire to greater diversity of many kinds, not just in terms of what the university calls ethnicity. But let us begin there. Currently, according to the Office of Institutional Analysis, the Honors College is home to over 200 students of color (SOC), and the percentage of SOC within the Honors College has been steadily increasing, from just 7% in 2014 to 13% in 2020. That’s the good news. The bad news is that 13% still fails to reflect the larger population of Grand Valley (18% SOC). Our goal is to reach 18%, but of course even that is not enough. We know there are many students of color, both here on campus and in high schools and community colleges across the region, who would both enrich and benefit from our program.
We do face some barriers. Historically, we draw about half our students from the four “Awards of Distinction” scholarship competitions held every winter. Of the 464 students who registered for the competitions this season, only 53, or 11.4%, were students of color. We make a special effort to reach out to all of these students, but it’s obviously a very small pool to draw from. Each winter we send recruitment emails to several hundred other high-achieving high school students of color who have been accepted to GVSU, and in January we reach out to 150 or so first-year students of color who have earned a 3.5 GPA or higher in their first semester. We have also worked to develop stronger relationships with local community colleges. These efforts have helped, but we need to do better.
Our chief barrier, we know, is a cultural one. As of now, the Frederik Meijer Honors College is not as appealing to or welcoming of students—and faculty—of color as we want it to be. As you may know, we have established an Honors Diversity Task Force, led by Meg Marshall, and through that group we have reached out to Admissions, Black Excellence Orientation, and Laker Familia with the simple message that we recognize our situation and need help from these and other campus partners to make changes to the Honors culture at Grand Valley. Cultures cannot change overnight, of course, so we understand that we have embarked on a long-term effort.
Our newly approved curriculum, we believe, is a step in the right direction. All of our first-year sequences and junior-level seminars are now required to demonstrate how they are integrating issues of inclusion and internationalization into existing course content. We have recently approved several new courses whose titles—“Culture, Power, and Inequality,” “Civil Rights and Social Movements,” “Race and Gender in Latin America,” and “Exploring Race and Racism”—convey our interest in pursuing such issues in the Honors classroom. A high proportion of Honors students have historically studied abroad, and we will continue to encourage that as a way to broaden the perspectives of our students.
Still, we need your help. Please contact Meg about joining our task force. If you are a faculty member, propose an Honors course or sequence. If you have ideas about how we can more effectively reach out to prospective students or create a more welcoming environment for current students, please let us know. Likewise, if you have suggestions for increasing our diversity of faculty, we’d love to hear them. We are always open to more conversation. In the meantime, we will continue with our efforts and keep you updated on our progress.

PBS series features Brooks College alum Lin Bardwell

"Shaping Narratives," a new PBS/WGVU television series, aims to increase West Michigan's capacity to influence public narratives affecting children and families of color. The project is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, MI, and supported by a host of partners, including multiple integrative, religious, and intercultural studies (IRIS) faculty members. The second episode in the series features Brooks College alum Lin Bardwell.
“The Shaping Narratives Project is a path-breaking effort dedicated to training community leaders of color how to use public media as a vehicle for community organizing," said Melanie Shell-Weiss, chair of IRIS. "Lin’s episode, 'Ngiiwe,' which means, 'to all of my relations,' is a stellar example of this in how it showcases one small piece of her own exploration into what it means to be a 21st century American Indian.” Watch the episode below and learn more about "Shaping Narratives" on the PBS website.

Kutsche Office to bring Flint water crisis author and book club to GVSU

The Kutsche Office of Local History and Grand Rapids Public Library are hosting two events around 2020's Great Michigan Read. Each year, Michigan Humanities selects a book that helps deepen readers' understanding of our state, society, and humanity. This year's selection is What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. It is the riveting account of her work to expose how Flint's children were being poisoned by the city's drinking water, and the community's work to begin healing.
Join us for a public conversation and book signing on March 24, 2020 at 6:00 pm in Loosemore Auditorium in the Richard M. DeVos Center (401 W. Fulton Street, Grand Rapids, MI). This event is free and open to the public.
The Kutsche Office is also hosting a book club to bring lively and engaging discussions of What the Eyes Don't See to GVSU's Allendale campus. Students, staff, faculty, and community members are encouraged to participate. The first session is scheduled for February 3. Register for any or all of the following discussion sessions and learn more on the Kutsche Office website.

Congratulations to our faculty award winners!

Congratulations to the following Brooks College faculty members who have been recognized for their excellence in teaching:
  • Craig Benjamin, professor of history in honors, won the Distinguished Contribution in a Discipline Award.
  • Anne Caillaud, associate professor of modern languages and literatures, won the Internationalization Award. Anne is currently on sabbatical and will return to Brooks College in Fall 2020 as interim chair of women, gender, and sexuality studies.
  • Denise Goerisch, assistant professor of integrative, religious, and intercultural studies, won a Pew Teaching with Technology Award.
The 13th Annual Faculty Awards Convocation is scheduled for Tuesday, February 11, 2020 at 4:00 P.M. in the Loosemore Auditorium, DeVos Center, Pew Campus. A reception immediately follows the ceremony with special music provided by the SE Side Jazz Ensemble, featuring Grand Valley faculty.
Craig Benjamin
Anne Caillaud
Denise Goerisch

Faculty conversations with the Provost

Provost Cimitile will again host a series of open conversations for faculty throughout the Winter semester. Please join the Provost to discuss what's on your mind. Mark your calendar and attend one or as many of the sessions as your schedule allows:
  • Thursday, February 6, 1:00-2:30 P.M., Gordon Gallery, DeVos Center
  • Wednesday, February 12, 10:30 A.M. - 12:00 P.M., 1104 Kirkhof Center
  • Monday, April 6, 1:30 - 3:00 P.M., 1104 Kirkhof Center
  • Tuesday, April 7, 2:30 - 4:00 P.M., Room TBD - Health Campus
Dates for staff open conversations will be announced later this semester. 

New staff introduction: Meredith Fedewa

Meredith Fedewa will join the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors on February 17 as the new Writing Center Specialist. Meredith is an alumni of Grand Valley where she dual majored in English and education. While at GVSU, she gained experience working with online students as well as non-native speakers of English. Additionally, she is a former lead consultant in the writing center where she helped mentor and train new writing consultants. As Writing Center Specialist, Meredith will be overseeing the ongoing professional development and training of writing center staff. Welcome back to Grand Valley, Meredith! 

Nominate a sustainability champion

Sustainability Champions are individuals who, by practice and belief, support the ideals of sustainable practice and using a triple-bottom-line approach to problems and issues. Champions have demonstrated that they support sustainability, both in word and deed, and can be looked to as leaders in sustainability. To nominate someone as a Sustainability Champion, complete a nomination form by March 13. Winners will be recognized at the Sustainability Champions at our 11th annual Sustainability Champion Awards event on March 27, 2020.

Laker Effect Challenge applications now open

Teams wanting to participate in the Laker Effect Challenge for an opportunity at up to $3,000 from a pool of $5,000 in prize money have to submit proposals by February 18. The annual Laker Effect Challenge will be held March 26, 6-8 p.m., in the Eberhard Center. The pitch competition provides an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff members to collaborate with a community partner on an idea that, if implemented, encourages positive change. The event is sponsored by the Office of Civic Learning and Community Engagement. Learn more and apply at gvsu.edu/challenge.

Faculty, staff & student recognition

Roger Gilles, director of the Frederik Meijer Honors College, published an article, "1890s Women's Bicycle Racing: Forgotten, but Why?" in Sport History Review.
Patrick Johnson, director of the Writing Center, contributed to an article, "Consultants in the Classroom: Pilot Study Assessing Multidisciplinary Center Collaboration," published in Communication Centers Journal
Kelly Parker, director of environmental and sustainability studies (ENS), was interviewed on the WGVU Morning Show about the ENS program.
Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, assistant professor of integrative, religious, and intercultural studies (IRIS), and Melanie Shell-Weiss, chair and associate professor of IRIS, provided training and evaluation of PBS/WGVU's "Shaping Narratives" television series.

Upcoming events

The Global Café is open Wednesdays, 11:30 A.M. - 1:30 P.M. in the Interdisciplinary Salon (LOH 163).
*RSVP Requested

Faculty calendar & deadlines

February 17-21: Mid-term evaluations
March 1-8: Spring break
April 18: Classes end
April 20-25: Examination week
April 24-25: Commencement
April 25: Semester ends
April 28: Grades due from faculty by 12:00 P.M.
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