October 2015

In my humble opinion there is no better place to be in the month of September than a college campus. The mélange of new and returning faces at Calvin brings me great joy. As I talk to our students during this season I frequently ask: “Why are you here?” I am fascinated by their stories. Some students tell me how they found Calvin in an online search, while others have long family traditions here. But my favorite responses are vocational in nature. For example the student who told me: “I am here because I am called to learn from the very best in Christian higher education.” That student, Matt, went on to tell me that he has been pushed harder than he thought possible while at Calvin, but also that he has loved the entire journey so far.

Matt has caught on to the intent of a Calvin education, delivered by our faculty, and expressed so well by English professor Jennifer Holberg in a recent blog post. In writing about the story of Moses and the burning bush, she quotes Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s assertion that “Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees, takes off his shoes.” Added Holberg: “We do not meet to do ordinary work when we come to the classroom. Instead, like every other square inch, it is holy, heaven-crammed ground. As professors, we get the amazing opportunity of helping students ‘see’ and by our own posture, modeling humble attentiveness. In so doing, we bear witness to God in his creation and in our students, ‘every common’ one, ‘afire’ with God’s image. Our hope as educators: to send forth a shoeless generation, full of wonder.”


We will strengthen Calvin’s financial foundation for future generations.

  • In May 2015, via This Square Inch and the president’s office website, I gave Calvin Nation an update on our overall debt situation and our prioritization efforts to put the college on a sustainable financial footing by the fall of 2017. I noted at that time that there was both good news and more work to be done, including the fact that an academic prioritization task force had been appointed by the provost to make recommendations regarding our academic programs by fall 2015. That task force, made up of nine faculty members from nine different disciplines, worked exceedingly hard this summer, and it has made its recommendations, including the discontinuation of some majors. This is not yet finalized, and we are now working through those recommendations, including the proper processes that are part of our governance structure. But, This Square Inch readers are a key audience for Calvin College, so I wanted you to be updated to the best extent possible even as we continue to have conversations about these recommendations at the level of both key college committees and eventually at the Board of Trustees level. You can read more about this final step of our prioritization process on my office’s website, and we will keep you updated (with the next such update slated for October 8, 2015) via our website and more.

  • We’re approaching that time of year when Calvin students start calling Calvin alumni and friends. You’ve likely received these calls in the past, and perhaps you’ve picked up the phone or perhaps not. I’d like to encourage you to please consider speaking to one of these dedicated Calvin students this year. These calls aren’t just about giving. They’re also an opportunity to update your information and to let us know if there’s anything new or noteworthy in your life. So even if you have no plans to support the annual fund, we believe this conversation still will be edifying, informative and encouraging to both you and to the student caller. But be warned: Calvin students are captivating, their stories are compelling and you might just find yourself making a gift.


Calvin prepares the heart and mind for rigorous inquiry, always seeking God’s truth.

  • A recent profile of Brianna Marshall detailed her experience as a summer intern at the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. One highlight of the piece for me was Brianna’s recollection of an eschatology class that changed her life. “Because of it,” she said, “I strive every day to be a better person and show God’s love more fully to those around me because the way I live now is just a foreshadowing of the life I will live in the future. I also strive to excel in whatever vocation I am living out because I know that what I do is beneficial to some aspect of God’s created world and furthers his Kingdom, which is what we are all called to do.”

  • A recent story in Spark, our magazine for alumni and friends of Calvin, featured the history department and its recent focus on applied history which helps us see the present in more complex ways. In the words of the Calvin history department’s mission statement: “We study the past to understand humanity’s place in the world, to remember those who came before us and to help us live more wisely in our own time.”

  • A trio of Calvin College business professors wrote a piece for the September issue of The Banner, a Christian Reformed Church publication, emphasizing the Reformed view that business is an important way for Christians to minister to the world. The piece, penned by Tom Betts, Bob Eames and Jill Risner, begins thusly: “Let’s face it: business has an image problem.” I encourage you to read it if you have a chance.


Calvin fosters communal connections that inspire wonder, curiosity and action.

  • For 45 years, Calvin College has welcomed students from West Michigan and beyond to Knollcrest Music Camp. This summer brought another 330 such students to campus who learned from and were mentored by 19 current Calvin faculty and staff plus another nine Calvin alumni and five current students.

  • This past summer Spanish professors Cynthia Slagter and Marilyn Bierling, along with student Hannah Kwekel, met with leaders from Grand Rapids’ Latino community to develop internships in which Spanish majors and minors with a second major or minor in areas such as business, English, communications, sociology and psychology can utilize and develop all of their skills in a professional setting.

Alumni and Parents

We are committed to building community among Calvin College alumni and friends around the world.

  • Move-in Day for new students was such a joy for me, seeing eager young learners from all over the world and meeting parents so thrilled for this new chapter in the lives of their sons and daughters. Thank you for entrusting your beloved ones to us, and know that all of us at Calvin take this charge seriously. Very soon we will invite parents back to campus for Homecoming/Family Weekend on Oct. 23–24. Andrea and I will anticipate more delightful conversations with Calvin families.

  • The alumni association recently announced the 2015 Young Alumni Award recipient, Anissa Adkins Eddie ’05, the co-owner of the Malamiah Juice Bar at the Downtown Market and an advocate for healthy eating and living in urban communities. This graduate certainly models the words of our mission statement: a person who “thinks deeply, acts justly and lives wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.” Anissa will be our guest during Homecoming/Family Weekend, Oct. 23–24, receiving her award on Oct. 24 at the Maroon and Gold Gala with Distinguished Alumni honorees Drs. Kim Olthoff ’82 and Steven Wiersma ‘83.


We are pursuing an environment of inclusive excellence, cultural competency and global awareness.

  • This fall 21 Calvin students are studying in Peru and living with Peruvian families. In a recent email, professor Dianne Zandstra wrote: “This past weekend we worshiped at a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon under brilliant blue skies. We read and sang of the greatness of God the Creator, the Alpha and the Omega. This fifth year in Peru promises once again to be a very rich experience for our students.”

  • A few years back our Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning collaborated with colleagues in the United Kingdom and Australia to create www.whatiflearning.com, an online resource for Christian teachers. This year the Church of England Education Office has received a grant from the U.K. government to pilot the resource in teacher professional development in up to 20 schools across the U.K.

Student Life

Calvin College equips students to think deeply, to act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

  • We welcomed more than 1,000 new students to Calvin via Quest, a three-day program that this year featured an emphasis on engaging, understanding and renewing place. As a college we invite incoming students to shape and be shaped by Calvin, contributing their gifts, talents and unique experiences to this place. On the first day of Quest we helped new students explore what it means to do God’s work by serving and learning in the city of Grand Rapids. Students spent the second day of Quest understanding Calvin College’s faith, history and vision, and the third and final day of Quest focused on our belief that God is renewing every aspect of this world.

  • The Princeton Review recently ranked Calvin College Health Services seventh in the nation for “Best Student Health Centers,” just behind Central Florida and just ahead of UCLA, so good company!


This fall, we are pleased to welcome 1,026 new students to campus. We can’t wait to see all they bring to the Calvin community, and the ways in which they will discover God’s world with us in the coming years.

  • Calvin’s 2015 incoming cohort matches last year’s cohort and includes 944 freshmen and 82 transfer students. This group represents strong faith commitments, academic excellence, geographic breadth and diversity of background.

    Our total student population this year is strong at 3,990. Those students hail from 55 countries, 48 U.S. states (plus Washington, D.C.) and five Canadian provinces. Also, 10.3 percent of our student body is international students and a record 14.2 percent is AHANA students (African-, Hispanic-, Asian- and Native-American). We value this diversity as we work toward our transformation into a microcosm of the body of Christ, with members diverse and equal, as outlined in our strategic plan.

  • As you meet potential college students, I ask that you share with them a glimpse of the discovery in Christ that Calvin has to offer. And, as you’re praying for their college search, please let us know how we can best follow up with them at www.calvin.edu/admissions/recommend.

  • We are excited to unveil a completely revamped scholarship and financial aid program for future students. Starting in the fall of 2016, students will be eligible for academic scholarships ranging from $8,000 to $18,000 annually. In addition, Calvin is now offering a $4,000 Legacy Award to incoming students who are Christian Reformed or are children of alumni. These are in addition to the $4,000 Mosaic Award and $2,000 First Generation Award programs for underrepresented students. See how these generous awards can help cut your costs and put Calvin within reach for you and your family.


The fall 2015 sports season has begun. Follow all of our teams, their schedules, their stories and more at calvinknights.com.

  • According to the most recent set of rankings released by the Princeton Review, Calvin’s athletics facilities are ranked 19th in the nation among Division III schools.

  • The Calvin men’s golf team opened its 2015 MIAA season on a winning note, taking first place at the first MIAA Jamboree of the year. Sophomore Ben VanScoyk finished in a three-way tie for medalist honors with a round of 74, while senior Justin Crow had a 77, sophomore John Van Noord a 78, freshman Sam Kuiper a 79 and senior Jason Zeigler a round of 80.

  • Calvin College senior Niko Giantsopoulos was an early selection as MIAA Defensive Player of the Week in men’s soccer, earning the honor the first week of September! Niko put together back-to-back shutouts at the North Shore Invitational in Massachusetts and was named to the North Shore Invitational all-tournament team.

Professor Holberg’s rich description of a “shoeless generation full of wonder” is an apt description of Matt’s reason for learning at Calvin. While our students stand on the holy ground of God’s creation as they learn and live together at Calvin, we who serve here also understand that we are joining them, for a time, on a journey of pilgrimage toward the City of God. It is true that we hope to prepare students for meaningful work, but as we teach and serve our students, we see that their aspirations are bolder and their yearning is deeper than the promise of a career. At Calvin our students start to see that ours is not a journey for the faint of heart. We barefoot pilgrims are not invulnerable to the vagaries of the road and weather; indeed, our perilous road is the way of the cross. So we thank you for supporting our students, faculty and staff with your generosity and prayers as we walk this road together. Know that we see this support as a gift of divine kindness along the road, and we are thankful for it.



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