Brooks featured in sustainability spotlight

GVL / Robert Mathews
Brooks College Of Interdisciplinary Studies

GVL / Robert Mathews Brooks College Of Interdisciplinary Studies

Ellie Phillips

As home to the Sustainable Community Development Initiative, Grand Valley State University’s Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies has the honor of being both the month of September’s and the university’s first “Sustainability Spotlight.”

The sustainability spotlight is new to GVSU this year. Its official launch took place Sept. 25 with a live Skype presentation titled ‘Building the Movement to Save the Climate’ by environmental author Bill McKibben.

Though Brooks College is the first to be featured as Sustainable College of the Month, each college on campus has its own month to be featured. The spotlight is an endeavor by the SCDI intended to help bring more awareness to sustainability projects on campus and garner more involvement from faculty, staff and students.

“The sustainability spotlight is a year-long event in which we highlight the activities and events of each college on campus,” said Bart Bartels, campus sustainability manager. “The spotlight was created to highlight the activities of all the colleges throughout the year rather than trying to pack so many events into one week, as had been done in the past.”

Brooks College contributes to campus sustainability in many ways and through several unique programs at GVSU. Some of these include the Applied Global Innovation Initiative, which is a program that works with people in Nicaragua to promote innovation and new product design; the Sustainable Agriculture Project, which focuses on organic food production and a sustainable business model; and the Sustainability Reinvestment Fund, which helps provide grant money to help with sustainability-related projects on campus.

“We are promoting going paperless in classes, creating more energy efficient office spaces and work spaces, promoting social justice topics and educating GVSU through curriculum that blends social justice, environmental and economic topics,” said Stephen Glass, associate dean of Brooks College. “The Brooks College was a consistent partner with other leaders on campus to place sustainability as a university value, and also as a topic within the new general education initiative.”

Brooks College also offers sustainability-related classes. Its website lists 21 courses ranging from the 200 to 400 level. This list includes The Idea of Nature (LIB 300), Introduction to Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ENS 201), Environmental Problem Solving (ENS 401), and some classes that don’t seem, on the surface, to pertain to sustainability. One of these classes is Understanding the Gay Life Cycle (LIB 325), and another is Latinos in West Michigan (LAS 475).

“Sustainability…is not just environmental but also has a sort of economic element to it,” said Andrea Marz, office coordinator for the SCDI. She explained that sustainability is an issue that affects more than just the environment; it has tendrils in economic and social areas as well.

In addition to the McKibben presentation, this month Brooks College also held the Honey Harvest, an event to help raise awareness about the disappearing population of honeybees in North America; Shop ‘til You Drop, an event that explored materialism in American culture; and the free public screening of “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”

However, Brooks College isn’t able to do all this alone. The SAP offers volunteer hours for any student interested in sustainable farming in the new Hoop House. The House is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 1-4:30 p.m. Volunteers will help with watering, planting, thinning, hoeing, harvesting, building and a number of other activities.

“The goal of the new campus sustainability spotlight is to help embed sustainability as the culture of Grand Valley,” Marz said. “It’s already the seventh value in Grand Valley’s mission.”
For more information about volunteering, contact Levi Gardner at [email protected]

To learn more about Sustainability Spotlight and the future spotlit colleges, read more at

[email protected]