October 2013

As October begins, study and engagement on the Calvin campus continue to intensify with students and faculty moving past the novelty of the first few weeks of the semester and settling into familiar patterns of learning and living together. The days are shortening, and the weather has a nip in the air that I associate with a maturing academic year.

At this point in the semester a college campus has settled into a rhythm that would be familiar to anyone who has been part of an academic community in the last 900 years. Indeed it is humbling to consider that we work as part of a social institution with almost a millennium of history in the English-speaking world. Perhaps the founding teachers at Oxford University, as they gathered students together in 1096, envisioned an academic institution that could endure for a millennium, but we humans rarely set our sights beyond such an expanse of time.

Still, at Calvin we now are thinking about the future of the college and challenging ourselves to think about how the next five years can be used to help us be ready for the challenges of the next 20 years. We’ll be looking for your input too and are hoping to next month include a link to an online survey that will allow your voice to be heard. Calvin’s great mission has endured for more than a century, and together our humble efforts are dedicated to see that it continues.

Academics

The new school year officially began with Convocation, a terrific event that brought together faculty, staff and students for a time of celebration. My address, “Honor God in our Learning,” was based on Exodus 15:22–27. You can see video of the entire service online.

  • Philosophy professor James K.A. Smith’s new book, Discipleship in the Present Tense, was just published by the Calvin College Press. Smith offers both incisive cultural criticism and winsome articulation of a robust Christian faith in our secular age. A restructured Calvin College Press, under the guidance of Susan Felch at the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, publishes books and other materials to advance the critical project of engaged Christian scholarship.
  • Computer science professor Earl Fife was recently named one of the country’s 35 best computer security professors by the backgroundchecks.org website. The website cited Fife’s academic credentials as well as an extensive list of certifications endorsing him as a professional forensic computer examiner and systems security expert.

International

Our professors and students come from many countries, and they respond to God’s call to make a difference in His world by reaching out beyond borders to partner with individuals and agencies across continents.

  • Anna Greidanus, a professor of art, spent two weeks this past summer with the Akha tribe of Thailand in Huisan village, teaching art classes to native children.
  • Mwenda Ntarangwi (a professor and director of the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education) and Susan Felch (a professor and director of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship) spent two weeks this summer in Kenya meeting with colleagues from six Christian universities in East Africa. During a five-day faculty development seminar, they worked with those colleagues on issues of mutual concern in Christian higher education, including the development of more robustly Christian pedagogy, scholarship and institutional leadership.
  • Calvin economics professor Roland Hoksbergen worked this summer with Calvin student and McGregor scholar John Michael LaSalle to develop a website that will match Christian NGOs with recent graduates in international development fields for internships and entry level positions. The site, now live, is www.entravos.net. Hoksbergen and LaSalle did the conceptual work, and then 2006 grad Justin Daining built and launched it.

Student Life

Our student life division exists as servants of God and partners in education to challenge and support students as they seek meaning in their college experiences. Each semester the division creates numerous opportunities for that to happen and October will be no exception.

  • The Sexuality Series has two gay Christian authors coming to Calvin in October. Our student life leaders believe that these talks (four in all, two by each speaker) have the potential to be very helpful on a difficult and often-polarized topic.
  • The student activities office has a wide array of concerts, events, movies and more lined up this fall. Switchfoot was one of the bigger names on the docket in September. The month of October brings many more activities intended to help Calvin students develop a unique perspective on pop culture distinct from the separatism of fundamentalism and the accommodation of liberalism.
  • The annual Chaos Day event is one of the great Calvin residence hall traditions, and the 2013 edition was no exception. To catch the excitement and find out who won, check out both the Chimes coverage and the photos on the Calvin College Facebook page.

Community

We welcome visitors to campus every day, and we extend an open invitation to you as well to return to the Calvin campus anytime. We hope to see you soon.

  • If you have not seen the new Bruce Dice Mineralogical Museum you should; it is a distinctive contribution to campus. During the academic year, the museum is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Group tours are available. Call (616) 526-3423 for a formal tour or program, or see it during Homecoming & Family Weekend.
  • The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has refreshed its grants program, including a new name, “Vital Worship: A Grants Program for Worshiping Communities.” The former Worship Renewal Grants Program has awarded more than 600 grants to organizations across North America for projects that could impact public worship at the local, grass-roots level. Consider if your worshiping community might apply for a grant.
  • The line-up is set for the 2014 edition of our January Series. Each talk begins at 12:30 p.m. EST in the Covenant Fine Arts Center auditorium if you are able to attend in person. If not, many of the talks are streamed live via our website.

Alumni and parents

We welcome alumni, parents, families and friends back to campus to celebrate Homecoming & Family Weekend. It’s a season of reunions as the Classes of 2003, 1988, 1973 and 1968 will gather Oct. 18–20 on campus. Calvin alumni nurses and German interim-abroad participants host reunions that weekend too.

  • Travel with Calvin professors Gary Schmidt to Maine/Mass., Corwin Smidt to Hungary, and Henry Luttikhuizen to European art museums. Or join us for trips to Cuba and the Pacific Northwest. Contact the alumni office (alumni@calvin.edu) to request more information on any of these trips.
  • The alumni association and career development office are hosting a job fair in Chicago on Oct. 29 for students and young alumni. Please encourage potential employers and employees to take advantage of this opportunity.
  • I hope to talk with many parents and alumni on campus during Homecoming & Family Weekend. I also continue to meet with alumni whenever I’m on the road, gathering their feedback on the college’s strategic planning process.

Enrollment

As I walk around campus this fall, there is definitely a tangible sense of flourishing. Calvin’s 4,034-member student body represents 44 states, 53 countries and six Canadian provinces. First- to second-year retention rates climbed from 86 percent to 88 percent. Residence halls and on-campus apartments are filled to capacity, and classrooms and labs are full of students who are eager to cultivate their Christian thinking and learn how to put that thought into practice. We give thanks to a good God for His many blessings.

  • This fall, we welcomed more than 1,000 new students to campus, our largest incoming class since 2007. A quick breakdown of the class of 2017 looks like this:
    • 1,006 first-year students; 101 transfer students
    • 30 percent are in the top 10 percent of their high school class
    • the average ACT is 26; the average GPA is 3.66
    • 16 percent are North American ethnic minorities, the highest such figure in Calvin’s history
  • I encourage you to think about the students you know who would benefit from Calvin’s heart and mind education. Encourage them to visit (www.calvin.edu/visit) and apply (www.calvin.edu/apply) soon!

Resources

As we look ahead to a season of Thanksgiving (coming up on Oct. 14 in Canada!), we remain grateful for the faithful support of so many Calvin alumni, parents and friends. Thank you for your gifts of time, money, prayer and more.

  • Year to date, we have about 200 fewer Calvin Annual Fund supporters than we did last year. If you would like to make a difference in the lives of Calvin students this fall, please give online (and pledge to pray for the college) at www.calvin.edu/go/givecaf. You may designate your gift to support the arts, athletics, or a variety of other causes. Remember, annual gifts from friends of the college like you are needed to support every student, every day!

Athletics

Our fall sports seasons are in full swing (literally, in the case of golf) and winter sports are just around the corner with men’s and women’s swimming and diving starting this month and men’s and women’s basketball tipping off the first week of November. Stay up-to-date with all of Calvin’s athletic happenings on the Calvin sports website: www.calvin.edu/sports/

  • The Calvin and Hope volleyball and men’s soccer teams combined in mid-September for “The Knight of Nets,” a fundraiser for malaria-preventing mosquito nets in African countries. In addition to the money raised, both Calvin teams were victorious.
  • The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association recently named Calvin freshman Cassie Vince its NCAA Division III National Athlete of the Week. Both Calvin cross country teams are nationally ranked.

Over the past few months I have been traveling around the country visiting alumni, parents and friends in Washington D.C., Seattle, Detroit, Holland and Kalamazoo. These visits have been great, and I look forward to more opportunities to meet alumni and friends across the country and around the world.

On a recent visit to Holland, I met Bernard Koops, a 101-year-old alumnus from the class of 1934. Bern reminded me of the enduring strength of the Calvin mission across generations and the faithfulness of a sovereign God in seasons of want and seasons of plenty.

As we make our plans for the future, we recognize the faithful work of the saints in generations past and remember the teaching of Hebrews 3:4-6 as we anticipate the future: “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything…And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” May this reassure you as it also reassures me of God’s rich promises.

Michael

 

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