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Faculty and Students

Inspiring Future Scholars

By the age of nine, Professor Rebecca DeYoung knew the satisfaction of connecting with an audience, of "seeing the light go on in people's eyes. I knew I had a knack for teaching," she said, "but for the longest time I didn't know what I'd enjoy teaching."

Then, in graduate school at Notre Dame, she fell in love with Thomas Aquinas. "I saw that his whole ethical system is basically a description of becoming renewed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. It's a tremendously inspiring vision because he lived it. In his Summa Theologica, you can see his teacher's heart and his sincere religious devotion; that resonates very much with the way I see myself as a teacher."

Professor DeYoung's research and teaching at Calvin aim to be what she calls "a translation project: How do I get what I find in Aquinas out to students in a way they find compelling, connected to the way they think about their lives, without watering it down?"

Maybe by helping them become Aquinas translators themselves. It was an idea DeYoung decided to try with her Aquinas seminar. "We took Aquinas' seven deadly vices into the residence halls. I told the students, ‘All right, you learn to read the primary text; then I'll give you 100 freshmen on a Thursday night at 11 p.m. You make the translation for them.' They did a tremendous job—they were so creative and funny! They not only learned to teach themselves, they learned to teach others. And, in the end, it was about the transformation of who they are, of how they think about themselves and their lives and struggles."

As much as any philosophy she's taught them, though, DeYoung thinks that if students have been transformed in her classes, it's because she tries to be a model of that life-in-the-process-of-transformation that Aquinas describes.

"I'm honest with my students about the struggle it is to live a life of faithfulness all across the board," she said.

Enough of a struggle—teaching, researching, writing, and mothering three children under the age of five—that, some days, DeYoung tells her students, it would be easier to give up. "It's completely overwhelming most of the time. But if it was all struggle without joy, and all about my effort—without abundant grace and a sense that, in the end, it's what God can do through me in spite of me—I wouldn't be able to make myself do it day to day. It's the deep-down rightness of it all—the way this work fits who I am and who I'm meant to be—that gives me enduring enthusiasm for what I do and makes me want to help students find that sense of purpose to see them through, too."

"I never really thought about it until I got to law school and had to face the prospect of actually getting a job," said C. J. Albertie '01. "It" is the complex and delicate dance a woman who wants both a family and a career must learn to do.

"In retrospect I think, ‘Wow, Professor DeYoung was writing her dissertation, having children, preparing classes, and putting up with all of us!' You could tell in class she was putting in 120 percent every day, and outside of class she would do the same. What a model she was for us!

"I spent a lot of time with her. At the last minute I decided to do an honors thesis. She agreed immediately to be my mentor. She hammered it out with me, day after day, side by side. The way she taught me to think and study and work hard has really influenced how I act in law school and what I'm choosing to do."

"You're responsible for making this material come alive." That's how K. C. Vande Streek '03 remembers a very pregnant Professor DeYoung describing the final project for an Aquinas seminar. The members of the class were, like K. C., predominantly seminary-bound males. Working in pairs, they were to present one of Aquinas' seven vices during a "Late Night" devotional session in a dorm.

"I had ‘envy,'" K. C. recalls. "For 30 minutes, I tried to do a lot of what Professor DeYoung did for our class—to make it relevant. I played part of a CD and paged through an Entertainment Weekly magazine to show that there's so much out there that doesn't build on the truth of who we are as Christians, but just gives us the latest buzz on what these stars have that we don't. It's envy incarnate.

"Professor DeYoung was very open with us about her struggles—like envy, and how, by the grace of God and the process of sanctification, she's been changed. Her openness with me has made me more open with other people about what I struggle with. That's something people need to see in me if I want to be a pastor."

 

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Philosophy professor Rebecca DeYoung
Philosophy professor Rebecca DeYoung

 

"In [Thomas Aquinas'] Summa Theologica, you can see his teacher's heart and his sincere religious devotion; that resonates very much with the way I see myself as a teacher."

 

 

 

 

 

C. J. Albertie
C. J. Albertie works in the New York law office Torys, LLP. She hopes someday to return to central and eastern Europe to work for the legal rights of ethnic and cultural minorities in the region, a passion she discovered while studying in Hungary during her senior year at Calvin.

 

 

 

 

 

K. C. Vande Streek
K. C. Vande Streek graduated in May and currently attends Calvin Theological Seminary.