Survey results, (Re)Start Meeting, staff updates, advising, service awards
Survey results, (Re)Start Meeting, staff updates, advising, service awards
Grand Valley State University
Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Newsletter December 2020
Headshot of Mark Schaub, Dean of Brooks College
Dean Mark Schaub

Dean's Message

Problems Large and Small
If we think only of ourselves, forget about other people, then our minds occupy a very small area. Inside that small area, even tiny problems appear very big. But the moment you develop a sense of concern for others, you realize that, just like ourselves, they also want happiness; they also want satisfaction. When you have this sense of concern, your mind automatically widens. At this point, your own problems, even big problems, will not be so significant.
― Dalai Lama XIV, The Wisdom of Forgiveness

Team teaching INT 100 this semester has been my most meaningful work. It informs everything else I do and keeps my focus on what is important. Maureen (Wolverton) and I have not yet received or graded final exams, and our access to LIFT evaluations is weeks away. But the feedback we’ve consistently received from these first-year students is that the best thing we’ve done for them as faculty members has been simply to check in with them on occasion. "Hey, how are you doing?" It is remarkable that the simplest thing can sometimes have the greatest impact.
We value interdisciplinary inquiry because it provides the best tool for addressing the very biggest problems or answering the most daunting questions. Contrary to the (mis)characterization of interdisciplinarity as lacking the intellectual rigor of the disciplines, our approach to our scholarship and teaching is as complex as the breadth of human knowledge. But in its most valuable sense, it is also simple. We start with the problem or question and go from there. We ask and seek with an open mind and—we hope—humility.
Bear with my apparent lack of humility, then, as I point out a few recent affirmations of interdisciplinarity, both of them from outside Brooks and GVSU. First off, one of our sibling institutions has recently announced its bold move towards its educational future, centered on interdisciplinarity. Brooks College’s programs certainly are built to “…solve complex, interconnected problems.” Our relevance comes from that essential starting point.
Secondly, the most recent in the series of GVSU Fireside Chats featured Jaime Casap (former Chief Education Evangelist of Google) and was titled "The Problem-Solving Generation". In his description, universities should be striving to serve as a buffet of curricular dishes for learners across a lifespan of evolving careers and selves. If you listen in on his description of an ideal undergraduate “major” [from around minute 43:00], Casap is basically describing an Integrative Studies degree, in which faculty help guide students to “curate” their own approach to the buffet—both in the immediate curriculum and at various touchpoints along the way.
The work we do in Brooks—from facilitating civil discourse on the important issues to educating around sustainability, to presenting the urgency of anti-racism work—checks all the boxes on what is relevant now and in the future.
And in that effort, we check in on one another. This semester, this pandemic, has been exhausting, lonely, challenging, and long. It has been difficult and promises to remain difficult for a while. Still, as our INT 100 students remind us, we’re making a difference.
We need each other for what’s next, for every problem large or tiny, so please keep on checking in. Be safe.

The Survey Results Are In!

Thank you to Kim McKee (IRIS) for leading the Brooks College survey development, collection, and reporting. We are sharing the results report in its unedited form, and trust that your responses will be useful in charting a course for the future of Brooks College—including the development of the next strategic plan and conversations around structural organization to advance that plan. Read the results summary
Winter 2021 (Re)Start Meeting
All Brooks College faculty and staff are invited to the virtual Winter 2021 (Re)Start Meeting on Friday, January 15, 2021, from 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. The program will feature student presentations, breakout sessions, and more. Submit your RSVP

Winter Break Extension and Vacation Carryover

President Mantella approved a one-time extension of Winter break by adding closure days on December 23 and January 4. All university buildings will be closed during this time, and employees will be paid without impacting any leave accruals. The President also approved a one-time modification to policy that allows employees to carry over extra vacation time to 2021. For details, visit the Human Resources website.

Brooks Advising: New Name and Location

The Brooks College Advising Center is the new name for the office serving students' advising needs across Brooks College's programs. Beginning in January, the Brooks College Advising Center will be located at 260 Lake Michigan Hall, where it will share the space with the Office of Sustainability Practices.
Anita Benes headshot

Anita Benes Retirement Celebration

Written by Jen Jameslyn, Director of the Brooks College Advising Center
The door to LMH 133 looks like every other office door on the quiet first floor of Lake Michigan Hall. But step inside and you’ll feel right at home thanks to the warm and welcoming space created by Anita Benes.
Professional advisors often talk about the importance of recognizing the whole student, not just their major or their schedule. Anita embodies this ethic of care, making sure every student who comes through our door feels welcome, seen, and valued. She answers questions and schedules appointments and makes sure students get connected to important resources — but that’s just the beginning. Students love to comment on the holiday decorations in the office, telling us that it feels like home or sharing what they’re most looking forward to about the holiday. Sometimes students come in feeling stressed or anxious or unsure about their choices. Anita sits with students who are panicking about classes or overwhelmed by changing majors, making comfortable conversation until they feel a little more at ease.
Before going remote, we had students who came back week after week, not because they needed advising, but because they valued having a comfortable place to sit, a cup of tea, and a conversation with Anita. I’ve seen the happiness and relief on the faces of student parents when they come in apologizing for having to bring their children and Anita introduces herself to the kiddos and gets out boxes to build ramps for toy cars. When a student mentioned feeling frustrated and helpless because they couldn’t replace their broken laptop, Anita created the Laptop Loan program to ensure students could access free refurbished laptops from the Surplus Store. And she’s never too busy to help a student who needs a coat from the coat drive find one that’s just the right size and style.
Anita is retiring from GVSU at the end of this semester after serving for more than ten years. Her work ethic, professionalism, and attention to detail will of course be missed. But more than anything else, I’ll miss the care and heart she brought to our office every day. Her compassion, kindness, and drive to make sure every student has what they need to succeed are a model for all of us, especially as we work with students facing more challenges than ever in these unprecedented times. Please join me in wishing Anita all the best in this next chapter, where she’ll have more time for all the things she loves: music, travel, Disney, gardening, and running. I’m profoundly grateful for all she’s done for students in Brooks and across GV. Our office won’t be the same without her.
Jack Mangala headshot

Jack Mangala Named Chair of Area and Global Studies

Jack Mangala, professor of political science and area and global studies, has been named the chair of Area and Global Studies Department. Jack has served as interim chair of Area and Global Studies since January 2020. Congratulations, Jack!

University Service Awards

Congratulations to all the 2020 Service Award Recipients! We'd like to honor the following Brooks College colleagues who have reached a milestone in their years of service to the University:
30 Years of Service
  • Anne Caillaud, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Modern Languages and Literatures
20 Years of Service:
  • David Coffey, Design Thinking Academy and Mathematics
  • David Stark, Area and Global Studies and History
10 Years of Service:
  • Laurence José, Digital Studies and Writing
  • Kelly McDonell, Meijer Honors College
  • Brent Smith, Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies
  • Ayana Weekley, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Christina Mireles, school and community coordinator for the Charter School Office in Detroit, is pictured with her family. Mireles is enrolled in the accelerated online degree program.

Students Enrolled in Accelerated Degree Program want Bachelor's Degree for Job Security

In this most unusual of academic years, more than 150 adult students have committed to pursuing a bachelor's degree through a new accelerated, online program at Grand Valley.
For most students, it means pulling out textbooks and computers after putting their kids to bed. Dearborn resident Christina Mireles had a conversation with her young family before beginning the program.
"As a parent, education is something I push with my own kids; they know how important it is to me, finishing my degree," said Mireles. "I told them I will not be as available as usual. They know what my educational goals are and are very supportive of me."
Mireles has worked for GVSU's Charter Schools Office in Detroit for more than a year. She enjoys her work and said earning a bachelor's degree fits with her career goals.
"For many years, when I worked in different settings, I've seen younger people promoted. It was difficult for me to compete with them because I didn't have a bachelor's degree. Now my professional goals will be met." Continue reading on GVNext

Sustainable Agriculture Project Announces Partnership with New City Neighbors

Grand Valley's Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP) has partnered with New City Neighbors to expand the educational farm.
New City Neighbors, a local community development organization, will utilize 1 acre of agricultural land at the SAP for the project. The home base of New City Neighbors is a 1-acre urban farm in the Creston neighborhood of Grand Rapids, where high school students in the neighborhood can receive job and life skills training.
Earlier this year, New City Neighbors received news that the lease on a 3-acre urban farm in Grand Rapids could not be renewed. Crystal Scott-Tunstall, an affiliate professor of environmental and sustainability studies at Grand Valley and New City Neighbors board member, heard the news and saw an opportunity for the organization to work together with GVSU on a solution. Continue reading on GVNext


Melanie Shell-Weiss, chair and professor of Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies, discussed the LEADS program with Shelley Irwin on the WGVU Morning Show.


Faculty Calendar

December 11: Virtual Graduate Celebration
December 12: Classes end
December 14-19: Final exams
December 19: Semester ends
December 22: Final grades due by 12:00 p.m.
December 23 - January 4: Winter break
January 15: Brooks College (Re)Start Meeting
January 19: Winter 2021 classes begin
January 19: 2020 Faculty Activity Report (FAR) due to Unit Head - use the regular form on Digital Measures, but reflections are only required for teaching
February 9: Faculty Awards Convocation
March 15: 2021 Faculty Activity Plan (FAP) due to Unit Head - only F21 required
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