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Grand Valley State University

Brooks College of 

Interdisciplinary Studies

Message from the Dean
On Saturday, January 23, 2016, I leave for five days in Ghana to visit our Brooks College/Honors College study abroad partner, Challenging Heights. Challenging Heights, founded by former child slave James Kofi Annan, is an amazing organization dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating, and educating trafficked children. Every summer, approximately fifteen GVSU students spend seven weeks working with these children and return, they say, totally transformed. Really? Transformed in only seven weeks? How is that possible?
Simply by preparing for my trip over the past week, I feel that I am already experiencing the beginnings of a transformation that includes an acute and humbling sense of the limits of my own experience and intercultural understanding. In preparing for some of the public health challenges of travel in Africa, I have an enhanced understanding of the privileged life I have led by virtue of my place of birth, race, education, and socio-economic class. In visiting Barnes and Nobles to buy culturally and contextually appropriate books for the Challenging Heights library as gifts, I now see my own culture differently than I did before my bookstore excursion. I have confronted what is for me, at this time and place, the impossible task of accurately imagining how the fantasies, struggles, and yearnings of children as depicted in American literature for young readers would translate in the minds of young people who were probably trafficked by their own families and have experienced a degree of degradation and violence that no human being should ever experience. What would be the cultural meaning in Ghana of the dragons and magic that is now the backbone of Anglo-American children’s literature? What books could I select that would be meaningful and respectful to the Challenging Heights readers, not evoke painful memories, and do no harm to the reputation of American culture? 
I immediately rejected the Disney books. They could harm America’s cultural reputation. I rejected the Newberry Award winning books about the struggles of children in dysfunctional or impoverished families.  They could evoke painful memories or disrespect the children’s own struggles. I rejected the books about cute puppies, remembering the CDC advice about rabid dogs in Ghana. I rejected the excellent books on the civil rights struggles of African Americans, books that had won the Coretta Scott King Award, afraid of the resulting image of white Americans. I don’t know if my worries were silly and offensive or valid.  I do know that they were based on good intentions but probably ignorant assumptions.
Three hours later, I walked out of the bookstore with two Dr. Seuss books, two Magic Tree House Books (hopefully both educational and fun), and two books for young readers about the local and global impact of two resilient, amazing young people who are changing the world – Malala Yousafsai of Pakistan and William Kamkwamba (The Boy who Harnessed the Wind) of Malawi. 
I look forward to presenting these books and discovering where I have been wrong in my preconceptions. If a three-hour visit to a bookstore can have such a transformative effect, I now better understand how a seven-week sojourn at Challenging Heights can be totally transformative.  
Brooks College Announcements
  • In February, George Heartwell will begin working on a part-time basis in the Office of Sustainability Practices as the Community Sustainability Coordinator. George will be taking on some of Norman Christopher’s responsibilities.
  • The Office of Sustainability Practices will be moving to 260 Lake Michigan Hall on February 4.
  • The introduction of the Dave Feenstra Sustainable Agriculture Project Internship Fund is underway. Dave passed away in December. This fund is supported by Facilities, Spectrum Health (where Dave’s daughter works) and Brooks College.
  • Ellen Schendel has been reappointed as Associate Dean. A memo will be sent out later this semester announcing the reappointment.
  • The Padnos International Center was given federal money to hire a part-time Peace Corp recruiter. The person that fills this position will have served in the Peace Corp for at least 2 years. This person will also work with other local universities.
Professional Development Opportunities
Students in Crisis, Panel Discussion
Friday, March 4, from 1:30-3 p.m. in 2270 Kirkhof

Panelists William O’Donnell (Police Department), Aaron Haight (Dean of Students Office), and Eric Klingensmith (Counseling Center) will speak on how to respond when working with a student in crisis. This panel will be tailored to the questions and concerns of our faculty and staff. There will be time for questions and answers.
Gender/Sexuality Inclusiveness, Panel Discussion
Friday, March 18, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. in 2270 Kirkhof

Panelists Jessica Jennrich (Women’s Center), Theresa Rowland (Title IX), and Marla Wick (LGBT Resource Center), will speak on ways to ensure inclusiveness in regards to gender and sexuality. This panel will cover various topics, such as: Title IX, sexual harassment, hostile work environments, transgender issues, and mandatory reporting. There will also be time for questions and answers.

Please RSVP for these sessions by emailing If you have any questions for the presenters or a scenario you would like them to address, please email Krystal Vanden Bosch by March 1. 
Both of these panel discussions have been approved for PSS non-technical development credit.
Fulbright Workshop
Be one of the next crop of GVSU faculty to teach, research (or both) overseas! The Faculty Fulbright workshop will provide an overview of Fulbright opportunities, details on the application process, and how to get started on a successful application today. Immediately after the workshop, stick around for a wine and cheese reception with GVSU faculty who are previous Fulbright awardees.
Fulbright Workshop  
Friday, February 26, 2016 
UClub (DeVos Center, Building C) 
1:30 - 3:00 p.m.: Workshop, with Dr. Andrew Reiss of the Washington, D.C. Fulbright office
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.: Wine and cheese reception with GVSU Fulbright scholars
Register online at (under FTLC programs)
Fulbright scholar website:
For more information, please contact the Padnos International Center at  616-331-3898 or Mark Schaub (  
Faculty, Staff, Student, and Department Successes
Gamal Gasim, associate professor of Middle East Studies and Political Science, wrote an article, "Analysis: beyond the fragile peace in Aden," published in Al Jazeera.
President Thomas Haas published a chapter in the "Forum on the Value of Honors" in the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council for their 50th anniversary issue. The chapter is titled: "Relevance, Rigor, and Return on Investment: How Honors Enhances Education." Only two Michigan Universities were featured in the journal. Click here to view the journal.  
Richard Hiskes, professor of Political Science in the Frederik Meijer Honors College, will receive the GVSU Student Senate’s “Student Award for Faculty Excellence” on February 5, 2016 at the GVSU President’s Ball. 
Kimberly McKee, assistant professor of Liberal Studies, was interviewed by WBEZ's "Worldview" and FOX 2 Detroit for stories about a Senate bill that would provide retroactive citizenship to adult international adoptees whose parents or guardians failed to naturalize them as children.
The GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) and Office of Sustainability Practices were a cover feature story in the Winter 2015 edition of the Educational Procurement Journal. The article discusses the start and growth of the Sustainable Agriculture Project, as well as some of Grand Valley’s accomplishments in sustainability. Acknowledgments include Valerie Rhodes-Sorrelle, Grand Valley Sourcing Specialist; Norman Christopher, Executive Director at the Office of Sustainability; Youssef Darwich, Farm Manager of the Sustainable Agriculture Project; and James Phillips, Food Service Director at Campus Dining. To view the journal, please click here