April 2014

As I write this I am wrapping up a visit with 15 Calvin students in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where they are studying Spanish, living with families and developing their intercultural competence. Spring break allowed me to spend time with students in non-traditional learning environments, and I was blessed to journey to Honduras, one of 11 study abroad programs offered at Calvin.

Upon arrival the students and faculty members Maria Rodriguez and Kurt Ver Beek whisked me off to a maquiladora, a factory producing dress shirts for many brands you would recognize. Company managers described the work and conditions of the factory and answered student questions. Students walked the production line, observed the quick work of Hondurans and asked workers about wages and working conditions. Students spoke, listened and learned in Spanish, and they demonstrated their commitment to truth and grace in their questions.

Later that day the students described ethnographic study projects that have enabled them to observe workplace culture in hospitals, schools and non-profit organizations. As I listened to their stories I was reminded again of how these experiences motivate and inspire students in ways that are hard to match in the traditional classroom.

Academics

Through our learning we equip our students to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

  • Calvin philosophy professors Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung and Lee Hardy had the opportunity to teach in a medium-security prison in the small town of Ionia. Hardy wrote about the experience for the philosophy department website.
  • Sociology professor Mark Mulder is co-director (with Gerardo Marti of Davidson College) of a Lilly Endowment-funded study of Latino Protestants in the United States. The three-year initiative will include a team of 10 research fellows who will conduct congregational ethnographies across the country.
  • More than 100 students, alumni and other community members attended a discussion on recent events in Ukraine. Participants included Kevin den Dulk, Joel Westra and Becca McBride from political science; Todd Huizinga, a Henry Institute Fellow and former diplomat; and Spanish professor Olena Shkatulo, a native Ukrainian. Watch the video online.

International

Calvin seeks to make a difference in God’s world both close to home and at locales around the globe.

  • The Van Lunen Center has accepted its eighth cohort for its Fellows Program. Christian school leaders from as near as Grand Rapids, Lansing and Saginaw will join others from the Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island, Alberta and British Columbia, plus Puerto Rico and Vietnam in a year-long program.
  • As a Spanish major and basketball player, Daniel Stout wanted to avoid any conflict with the sport that spans both the fall and spring semesters, so, with the help of faculty at Calvin, he was able to work out a summer semester in Honduras, one that fulfilled his major’s requirements while also avoiding any conflicts with basketball.

Community

In Christian learning and life, mutuality in service of God and our neighbor is the means as well as the end.

  • Our Festival of Faith & Writing is April 10–12, and tickets are on sale for the various public events, including talks by James McBride, Anne Lamott and Miroslav Volf (all to be held in Van Noord Arena). Tickets can be purchased through the Box Office website.
  • This month Calvin English professor Lew Klatt began a three-year term as poet laureate for the Grand Rapids area. He will work to be an ambassador for poetry, creating programs and projects to foster the writing and reading of poetry by the public.

Student Life

We challenge and support students as they seek meaning in their college experiences.

  • At Living Our Faith Together (LOFT), our Sunday-evening worship service on campus, students recently enjoyed a four-week sermon series by Pastor Mary on relationships. The series covered students’ relationships with God, with parents, with friends and with “more than friends.”
  • Approximately 260 students have been selected for leadership positions in the residence halls and apartments. One new position, Academic Help Ambassadors (PDF), will help residence hall students practice academic virtues, achieve academic success and maximize their learning.

Resources

We are building our endowment, prioritizing support of programs and facilities, re-imagining information and communications systems and promoting ecological responsibility on our campus, all with an emphasis on long-term sustainability. Together we will strengthen Calvin’s financial foundation for future generations.

  • We are grateful for the Calvin alumni and friends who have made a gift to the college this year. But we believe we can do even more, just by getting more alumni involved. Did you know that only 25 percent of Calvin grads have given back to their alma mater this year? If you’re one of the 75 percent who has yet to make a gift, there’s still time! Every alum can afford to give $5 to the cause, and many can give much more. “Give your five” or make a gift of any size today.

Alumni and parents

Loyal ever to the faith of old; forever faithful to maroon and gold.

  • Chicago area alumni, parents and friends: I am looking forward to being with you on Friday, April 11, when I’m at Faith Christian Reformed Church in Elmhurst for a 6:30 reception and 7:30 dinner to talk about “Calvin College’s Exciting Future.” There is still a chance to register online if you haven’t yet done so.
  • Andrea and I will be lacing up our shoes for the annual Calvin Spring Classic 5k Run/Walk on campus on Saturday, April 26. Sign up now and join us. All proceeds go to local scholarships for Calvin students, and there is a lively post-race party with many giveaways for which all entrants are eligible.
  • One way to encourage a current Calvin student is to take advantage of the Student Treat program. You can send food or a snack package and a special message online. The final deadlines for treats this academic year are approaching.
  • I am amazed by the achievements of our alumni and by their Christ-centered motivations. You can read about these graduates in the Spark online. Prepare to be inspired, and pass on these stories to prospective students.

Enrollment

It’s yield season in enrollment management, the time when admitted students are weighing their college options and deciding where they will enroll. I’ve been privileged to be part of several yield events and wanted to offer a snapshot of recent events hosted by the enrollment division:

  • Andrea and I opened DeWit Manor to admitted students and their parents from several West Michigan communities, connecting with more than 200 hundred prospective first-year students.
  • New scholarship programs like the Honors Fellows, the John Perkins Leadership Fellows, the Calvin College/University of Michigan Medical School Partnership and the Artist Collaborative brought dozens of talented students to campus.
  • We brought Calvin to Chicago with an event at the History Museum for both admitted and prospective students and their families.

At such events, Calvin faculty and staff remark on the wide range of highly qualified students who are seriously considering Calvin and whose gifts and talents would enrich this community. I, too, am delighted and humbled by the caliber and character of these potential students and hope that each one will choose Calvin.

Being a Calvin Ambassador isn’t just a job for the president. Please consider how you, through a quiet word of encouragement or by hosting an event, can help promote Calvin’s education of the heart and mind.

Athletics

As spring sports begin, we have launched a new sports website, www.calvinknights.com, filled with interesting stories, updated stats, standings, schedules, rosters and more.

  • Another successful winter sports season wrapped up at the end of March as men’s swimming and diving competed at the NCAA Division III championships. Calvin won both the men’s and women’s MIAA titles this past winter. We also saw our men’s basketball team win the MIAA tournament and advance to the Sweet 16 of the D3 tourney, watched our women’s hoopsters finish a strong third in the MIAA and cheered on our indoor track and field teams to All-America performances. See the new sports website for all of the details.
  • Calvin senior Nicole Michmerhuizen was named a Goldwater Scholar last spring, and the Holland native was recently named the recipient of a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. A few days after earning that accolade, she claimed back-to-back All-America berths at the NCAA III Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Prior to becoming an administrator I taught international relations and political economy, focusing on Latin America. Of all the countries I studied during this period of my career, Honduras left me with the least hope. Corruption, the ineffectiveness of the education system and increasing violence were among the many factors that perpetuated poverty and injustice for generations.

Around the time I began my studies in Central America, Calvin alumni and faculty members Kurt Ver Beek and Jo Ann Van Engen, along with a few Honduran friends, founded an organization called the Association for a More Just Society (AJS) in Honduras. Kurt and Jo Ann, along with a brave and committed staff, have worked tirelessly to make Honduras’ systems of laws and government work for the poorest and most vulnerable.

At times the work has been dangerous (several years ago one of the organization’s lawyers was assassinated), but after toiling now for more than 15 years, the organization has begun to see powerful results. AJS’s work has exposed corruption in the education system and held the government accountable for ensuring that every child has access to 200 days of school (the average over the past decade was only 125 days). The 80 courageous Hondurans who now work for AJS were also recognized recently in a New York Times article for their work to bring justice to victims of crime in the Nueva Suyapa neighborhood. This year the new president of Honduras signed a commitment to give AJS unprecedented access to information in five ministries where corruption is particularly acute.

At Calvin we believe we are equipping our graduates to be Christ’s agents of renewal in a broken world. Kurt and Jo Ann are two examples of the “practical hope” we have in the renewing power of Jesus Christ. Witnessing this courageous renewal work in Honduras inspires and moves me as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection. May you also experience the joy of the resurrection as Christ continues His renewing work in and through you.

Michael

 

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