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Knowledge, Skills, Virtues: Calvin College Stories

Faculty Vision

Drew Barrow, Brain Fuller, Blake De Young (left to right)

Many Calvin students are provided with the opportunity to participate in faculty research projects. For example, Drew Barrow (left) and Blake De Young traveled to Ecuador to produce a film with Professor Brian Fuller (center).

Media Production: Picturing Hope

In June 2006, while filming in and around the Quechua community of Illagua Chico, Ecuador, Calvin students Blake De Young and Drew Barrow got footage of the residents farming, developing a crafts industry, making cheese, even putting two witches on trial.

Photo courtesy Full Circle MediaThe two aspiring filmmakers also got down on their knees.

At issue was the camera angle, explained Calvin communication arts and sciences Professor Brian Fuller, who supervised the film. When 6-foot-4-inch De Young and 6-foot-2-inch Barrow shot from eye level, it made the diminutive residents of Illagua Chico seem even smaller and disempowered.

“To have Drew and Blake beside me, to discuss with them, ‘Where would Jesus put the camera?’—to watch these students get literally, physically on their knees for the Quechua—that has a metaphorical, prayer dimension, but it also has a, ‘How do I see these people as Jesus sees them?’ dimension to it. It’s the stuff,” Fuller said, concluding: “If it doesn’t make a difference that I’m a Christian behind the viewfinder, what’s the point?”

The footage collected by the trio became Hope of the Quechua, a sensitive portrayal of an emergent Christian community as it grapples with religious, economic and human rights issues. The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee will use the film for fund-raising purposes.

De Young, a junior, and Barrow, a senior, are grateful for the experience. “I think it’s one of the hardest jobs I ever had,” De Young said. “I’m very proud to be involved in this project.”

“What I learned there and the final product that I have to show employers is just so valuable to me,” Barrow echoed.

“If I’m not teaching students, I can be a filmmaker anywhere,” Fuller said. “I can’t imagine making a film without students.”

Chemistry: Researching as a Team

Professor Kumar Sinniah with students.

“You’re really helping them to become scientists.” —Kumar Sinniah

One thing remains a constant in Kumar Sinniah’s research. Whether the Calvin professor of chemistry is studying the molecular interaction between the enzyme that causes glaucoma and the drugs that treat it or how salts affect the binding of DNA strands, one or more students are at the bench with him.

Test tubeTwo junior biochemistry majors, Sarah Kamper and Laura Porter-Peden, worked with him on the glaucoma project, Kamper for three summers and Porter-Peden for two. Senior chemistry major Joey Buthker helped Sinniah on the DNA binding project.

“For me, it’s another teaching tool, and it’s really a valuable experience for the students,” Sinniah said of his research collaborations. “They’re not only being mentored by the professor, but they’re partners in the research work—which is a different kind of relationship to the relationship one has in a classroom. In the classroom, I have the knowledge. In the research laboratory, we’re after the truth together.”

The students also share in the credit that goes with publication of the research, Sinniah added. All three students’ findings have been published in scientific journals, and they have presented their work at professional conferences.

The three are grateful for the experience. “It helps us build skills and confidence for doing research in the future,” Kamper said.

“It’s been cool to see how science actually happens, to get outside of just reading about it in a textbook,” Porter-Peden said. “We spent last summer doing something that nobody’s ever done before.” And Buthker, who’s gone on to graduate work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, agreed, adding, “It allowed me to get into good graduate schools as well.”

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