March 2016

Over the course of two dinners and a lunch last week with students, I asked them whether they believe that their generation is better or worse off than their parents’ generation. I intentionally left the question open-ended, and I am still thinking about the wide variety of answers I heard. Students who thought their own generation has it more difficult focused on such things as the added stress associated with technologies that demand an immediate response and the management of a social media image. Those who thought their parents’ generation had it tougher included stories of immigration from Vietnam, Korea or the Dominican Republic. Both sets of answers were powerful to me, but it was clear, too, that we gather students together from such different backgrounds today. The first set of answers spoke to the ways that technology is reshaping our culture, ways that are apparent to me but sometimes difficult to comprehend. The second set of answers speaks to the sacrifices being made to support the education of children of immigrant parents. But both groups of students also thoughtfully articulated the value of the education they are receiving at Calvin. It is an education, I believe, as do they, that will support the growth of wisdom that accompanies Christian maturity and a spirit of gratitude for the sacrifices of parents and grandparents, all gifts given before the face of God.


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

  • A play produced on our campus for interim is now getting national attention. "You Make a Difference: No More Bullying!" is a piece of musical theater written by communication arts and sciences professor Debra Freeberg and 2015 Calvin graduate Tricia Bayfield. Aimed at upper elementary and middle school students, the play focuses on a recovery and resiliency journey for bullied children and benefits from thorough research on Freeberg’s part, including attending bullying prevention conferences at which she was often one of the few people not a school counselor, administrator or social worker. Freeberg’s hope for the play was to open up the conversation about bullying in our schools, and she was successful. The play has been officially invited to the International Bullying Prevention Association National Conference in November 2016, and she will be bringing the play back to Calvin’s campus in the fall. Kudos to Professor Freeberg and the healing power of theater in the lives of people young and old.

  • Kevin den Dulk, a Calvin political science professor and director of our Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics, had an opinion piece published in the Washington Post last month on Christians and water, including not just the current events in Flint, Mich., but water as a worldwide commodity. Access to clean water is a growing and urgent problem, and he challenged Christians to respond as an issue of public justice.


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

  • For Calvin senior Martin Cervantes the Flint water crisis hit close to home. He lived in Mexico for 13 years and was never able to drink out of the faucet there. In a story on our News & Stories website he said of the people in Flint: "While I can’t completely comprehend what they’re going through, I can somewhat relate, and I don’t think it is fair in any way." So, acting on his convictions, he organized an on-campus water drive and distribution, working closely with the American Red Cross who told him there was a real need for people willing to be in Flint and getting the water to residents. And Cervantes plans to work with student senate on a proposal that would empower this student-led initiative to be much more than a one-time event.

  • The newest release from the Calvin College Press is Worship in the Joy of the Lord, the first in an anticipated series of books issued under the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) books imprint. All participants at the January 2016 Symposium on Worship received a copy of the book, which offers more than 300 quotations on the deep meaning and purpose of Christian worship, as collected by Chip Stam, a long-time friend of the worship institute and frequent symposium presenter, and edited by John Witvliet, director of the CICW.

  • A newly accredited program called the Calvin Prison Initiative will give 20 inmates each year the opportunity to begin pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in ministry leadership. The students take classes in ministry and theology as well as Calvin’s liberal arts core courses. Inmates from any of the 31 prisons in the Michigan Department of Corrections system can apply to the program, and each August admitted students are transferred to Handlon. “God is transforming lives in amazing ways in prison,” said David Rylaarsdam, professor of historical theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. “Calvin wants to join the church behind bars, not only to help it to grow but to change prison culture. It’s an exciting Kingdom project. When education equips prisoners to be agents of renewal, everyone wins.”


Student life at Calvin is a journey where students engage in experiences that broaden the mind, strengthen the body and inspire the spirit.

  • Our career development office is testing a variety of new programming, from a liberal arts and graduate school career fair to daily, small-group workshops on a variety of topics to a day-long career conference during academic advising. In addition, TaRita Johnson, career development’s new director, will lead several fireside chats with students as they explore deep questions, such as how to listen to God’s call and to remain true to their faith in a secular world. This office is innovating to reach more students and equip them to succeed on their life-long vocational path. Keep an eye out for major initiatives related to career development in the year ahead.

  • In February more than 600 students participated in Senior Salute, a celebratory prelude to Commencement where students were measured for caps and gowns, ordered tickets for the ceremony and connected with academic services staff members to ensure that all graduation requirements had been fulfilled. This year’s festive atmosphere was enhanced by heart (in hand) shaped cookies and a photo booth where students could snap a picture to remember this Calvin milestone.


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

  • During interim 2016, computer science professor Joel Adams took 11 Calvin students to Handong Global University in Pohang, South Korea. There each Calvin student was paired with a Handong student, and each pair used agile software development practices to design and build an original computer game in two weeks. Weekends were spent visiting Korean cultural and historical sites, including three days exploring Seoul.

Alumni and Parents

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

  • Our staff has been working on a new look for Spark, the quarterly magazine founded in 1954, for print and Web. I’m excited about the updated presentation of the renewal work going on at Calvin and among its alumni. The debut of the “renewed Spark” is in March. If you receive Spark, let the editors know what you think about the publication at

  • Each semester, the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL) offers more than 50 courses to its 2,000 members (ages 50 and older). For some, these courses open worlds not previously explored. For example, in Leah Ivory’s course on West Africa drumming, a peek into the classroom unveiled a scene of CALL students working on varying rhythms, their enthusiasm palpable. As a result of the class, one student purchased a djembe drum to use in her home, while another, age 80, recently played drums with his church worship team. CALL continues to enrich the lives of its members. Visit for more information.

  • Andrea and I annually take advantage of a healthy habit that is right outside our front door: the Calvin Spring Classic 5k run/walk/handcycle and Karen Muyskens Family Fun Run. The delightful event, which draws well over 1,200 participants and cheerleaders, is held entirely on the campus with a festive community gathering afterwards. Join us and register now, and get your running shoes ready! The event is Saturday, April 23, at 9 a.m. See


Calvin is a community that thinks deeply, acts justly and lives wholeheartedly.

  • Andrea and I have already met with many admitted students, and we continue to be impressed with their academic passions and their commitment to engaging in learning from a Christian perspective. Beyond the treasure of individual conversations, our overall admissions numbers also tell a promising story. Our applicant and admit numbers this year continue to be strong (record highs, actually), and we are pleased that prospective student deposits to date are pacing nicely ahead of last year’s numbers, as students are eager to reserve their spot in the Class of 2020. We are particularly encouraged to see that the number of admits who are alumni children and/or Christian Reformed are up after a period of decline. Would you please take a minute to think of someone you know who is preparing to head off to college next year and pray for a blessing on their decision? And, would you please consider reaching out with a word of encouragement, perhaps telling a story of how Calvin united your heart and mind to engage God’s world? In so many ways you, our alumni and friends, are our strongest ambassadors for Calvin College.


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

  • Before they can ask or answer any other question about college, future Calvin students need to answer this one: Can I afford it? We answer that question with a YES for as many students as possible through scholarships, grants, on-campus employment and more. Here’s a new way you can make Calvin a reality for incoming students: give to the Maroon & Gold Scholarship Fund, which will help create need-based scholarships. We can’t think of a better way to pass on the gift of a life-changing education. Visit to support Calvin students today.


Winter sports continue and many of our spring sports are in full swing. As we went to press with This Square Inch, some season-ending results were not yet available. But follow all of our teams, their schedules, their stories and more at

I am on the road and on the run right now as I write this closing in the middle of Lent. Driving through Los Angeles traffic I puzzled out what I might say, but kept landing on Psalm 94:19 which brings me great reassurance and joy. It is my hope that you will find comfort in this as well: “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Thank you for your support of the Calvin College community.



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