The landscape of the Calvin campus has definitely changed over the course of this year. Visitors to the college have observed the towering cranes and construction vehicles, interior remodeling and emerging exterior structures.
Certainly, this kind of activity is one way to gauge the vitality of an institution. An abundance of building is visible at the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, the van Reken Residence Hall, the Spoelhof Center Atrium and the Youngsma Center.
We are grateful to the alumni and friends who have responded generously to the building projects that constitute one element of the Campaign for Calvin College, enabling us to provide these wonderful facilities for our students, faculty and staff.
Building Up, Across and Within
But "building up," while readily noticeable and visually impressive, tells only one part of the story about Calvin’s growth as an institution of Christian higher education that is responding to the global challenges of today.
I think of "building across" as bridges Calvin is constructing to bring the Reformed Christian perspective to people and organizations and causes all over the world. Our faculty members have become master builders at this sort of global collaboration, connecting Calvin to many places and purposes.
The college hosted a four-week seminar on science, philosophy and belief in July, designed for a group of 22 faculty and graduate students in related disciplines from universities in mainland China. Calvin professor Kelly Clark — who directs the overall science and belief project funded by the Templeton Foundation — said the goal of the project is "to produce a sophisticated ongoing conversation about philosophy, science and belief in China that will equip scholars, strengthen teaching at Chinese universities, and sustain and deepen this line of inquiry in China."
Calvin professor of Spanish Karen Miller is using a grant from the National Science Foundation to study language acquisition in Chile and Mexico. Miller studies how children native to those places learn and incorporate plural morphology in Spanish. Her interests include how the variations in the language children hear affect the language they initially acquire. This project has practical implications for language testing and standardized tests in education.
Calvin professor of political science Corwin Smidt and the college’s Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics developed a comprehensive study that shows the important changes occurring in the way religion relates to American politics. Smidt and Calvin colleagues Jim Penning and Doug Koopman, along with others involved in the study, presented the survey results in June at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., an event that was carried live on C-SPAN.
Dianne Slager, a nurse practitioner who has taught at Calvin for three years, earned a grant from the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity to research the role of faith communities in HIV/AIDS prevention in Liberia. She used the Nagel funds to travel to Liberia in late May to assess knowledge and attitudes about HIV/AIDS among church leaders and to evaluate the HIV/AIDS information programs they offer.
And that’s just a small sampling of the "building across" that was generated from this campus during the past academic year.
"Building within" refers to the programs that we implement on campus to continually enhance the way in which we teach, mentor and support our students as they develop their gifts for kingdom use.
A dozen juniors and seniors experienced summer internships designed to help them discern their call to ministry as part of Calvin’s Jubilee Fellows program. These students were selected to participate in the program after each expressed interest in church-related work. Thanks to our partnership with churches from coast to coast — in Alberta, California, Illinois, Michigan, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin — these students better understood church ministry and how their gifts might be used.
Unlearn Week, an annual event from the multicultural student development office, took place in October with myriad events to educate Calvin students, faculty and staff about anti-racism and diversity. These events are inspired by our From Every Nation (FEN) document. FEN is Calvin’s multicultural statement of mission and has as its goal an academic community "from every tribe and language and people and nation," as inspired by Revelation 5:9-10.
The new Enterprise Center at Calvin is fostering partnerships to commercialize intellectual properties. Working with businesses, alumni, investors or other interested parties, the center is beginning to commercialize inventions, products and services that are generated internally or brought to the college by third parties. Through this innovative effort, Calvin is leveraging the expertise and experiences of faculty, staff, alumni and the business community for the benefit of students, Calvin and God’s kingdom.
Again, there are many more instances of "building within" occurring on the Calvin campus as we continually work at making the Calvin experience ever more vibrant and applicable to a rapidly changing world.
I encourage you to visit Calvin in the coming year, to take in the "building up" that is evident on a campus tour. But I suggest that you linger long enough to meet the faculty, students and staff of this college. If you do, you will find that there is another kind of building going on. There is "building across" disciplines and continents and "building within" policies and programs — the kind of construction that will strengthen the Calvin College of today so that the Calvin College of tomorrow is fully equipped to be God’s renewal agent in as bold and broad a way as imaginable.
Gaylen J. Byker ’73