Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Vision, Faith, Commitment: Calvin College Stories

Student Vision

Dune research along the Lake Michigan shoreline

Despite the importance of Michigan’s coastline as a scenic and geologic resource,Deanna van Dijk’s research program is one of only three or four on the Lake Michigan shoreline, said Ralph Stearley, the GGES chair: “Her students are involved in all phases of her work, and this thorough grounding in all phases of research has opened many doors for them.”

Opening Doors Through Research

A lot of college students spent last summer on the beach. Not many of them, perhaps, were lugging erosion pins and surveying equipment as were Calvin senior Rob Vink and junior Melinda Campbell.

Vink and Campbell, both environmental geology majors and music minors, spent the summer of 2005 doing research on Lake Michigan coastal dunes under the mentoring eye of Deanna van Dijk, a Calvin professor of geology, geography and environmental studies (GGES).

Beach grass“It was probably the biggest learning experience that I had in college,” Vink said.

The duo were collaborators: Campbell helped Vink map the topography and study the history of Mount Pisgah, a popular dune in Holland, Mich. Vink helped Campbell study the growth and erosion of parabolic dunes at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon, Mich.

Both produced major projects: Campbell created the Lake Michigan Coastal Dune Web site and an interpretive panel from her Hoffmaster research, and she presented on both at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in October. Vink presented his paper on the erosion and management of Mount Pisgah at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers in March.

“The project has been a very far-reaching thing,” she said. “I presented at the GSA, and now I have all of these opportunities for grad schools because field research is such a valuable experience.”

Dune research wasn’t all work. The two also swung in the wild grapevines, fed the ant lions and ate lunch facing the waves.

"A coastal dune makes for an incredible office,” Vink said.

Calvin students in Honduras

Calvin offers more than 15 study abroad programs that address international development issues. Hundreds of students every year spend their January Interims or entire semesters immersed in the language and culture of developing countries.Three of Calvin’s 10 semester-long off-campus programs explore international development issues in the countries of Honduras and Ghana.

Envisioning a New World

"God has a heart for those who are in need, who are struggling…. I’m more sure of that than I am of any other tenet in the Bible."

When Bread for the World President David Beckmann said these words from the Gezon Auditorium stage, he was kicking off Calvin’s inaugural Faith and International Development Conference, held Feb. 9–11, 2006. The conference, which explored the realms of missions and international development, was the creation of Calvin senior Jackie Biltz and a team of dogged student volunteers.

Calvin senior Jackie Biltz“It was a God thing,” Biltz says now of the event, which served as a meeting ground for 350 undergraduates from 27 schools in the United States and Canada. “It wasn’t about doing my work or my agenda.”

So successful was the conference — which was funded by Calvin’s Lilly Vocation Project, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, International Aid and World Vision — that Messiah College (Grantham, Pa.) is planning a similar event this year.

And Biltz and team are already planning Calvin’s second edition, to be held in January 2007.

“Like many Calvin students, Jackie has a vision of a world in which people are not desperately poor; a world that does not tolerate ethnic cleansing or genocide or children dying of malaria, diarrhea or hunger; a world in which every person is respected as God’s image bearer,” conference adviser Roland Hoksbergen said. “They realize that this sort of world will not happen unless people take up the call God has given them and make it happen.”

« Back | Next »