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Search Process - Opportunity Profile


“Calvin College is a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity. Through our learning, we seek to be agents of renewal in the academy, church, and society. We pledge fidelity to Jesus Christ, offering our hearts and lives to do God's work in God's world.”

This is the vision statement of Calvin College, distilled from three principal college documents (the Expanded Statement of Mission, the Core Curriculum Purpose Statement, and From Every Nation) which articulate the identity and mission of Calvin College in light of its particular theological tradition, educational history, foundational premises, and sustaining vision.

The school began in 1876 when it was founded to train a class of seven students as ministers in the Christian Reformed Church. Its ambitious curriculum was evident as it prepared students not only in the subjects necessary for ministry—Hebrew, Greek, Latin, biblical exegesis and theology—but also history, geography, logic, rhetoric, and philosophy.  Today, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary are separate institutions, but they share a campus, and each is an agency of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA).

Calvin College is a Christ-centered academic community serving 3,900 students from across the nation and around the world. A faculty of more than 320 committed and caring Christian professors skillfully provide outstanding instruction, while a dedicated Board of Trustees, an excellent administrative team, a strong staff, thoughtful students, and active alumni all collaborate to make Calvin a distinctive institution.    

At Calvin College, faith and curriculum come together in an academic climate where a rich kind of learning flourishes—learning that intentionally integrates Christian commitment, rigorous inquiry, and dedicated service in order to equip students to engage a broken world. Shaped by this climate, students develop into leaders, eager to work for renewal wherever they are called. Such an integrated educational project enables Calvin to hold a vital place in Christian higher education.  

Calvin’s teaching, scholarship, and service have been recognized widely; for example, U.S. News and World Report ranked Calvin ninth in the category of schools “with a strong commitment to teaching.” The faculty’s active scholarship is well known and has been frequently rewarded with major grants; students too have received an impressive number of prestigious awards, such as Fulbright and Goldwater scholarships.  The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll also recognize Calvin as a national leader both inside and outside of the classroom.  U.S. News and World Report cited Calvin for its superior internship program, the only school in Michigan to receive that recognition, and also honored its service-learning program, one of just twelve colleges nationwide to be so honored.

Calvin College offers over a hundred majors and programs, with about half of its graduates majoring in the traditional liberal arts and half majoring in professional programs. Calvin offers thirteen nationally recognized semester-long off-campus study programs to countries such as China, Ghana, and Honduras. Moreover, the college is consistently recognized by the Institute of International Education as a national leader in short-term study abroad, providing students with over twenty three-week-long study abroad opportunities on six continents during the month of January. 

Beyond the classroom, students enjoy an excellent residential life system, with opportunities for specialized living both on and off campus.  Examples include an Honors floor, a Creation Care floor, a Grassroots floor that is focused on racial reconciliation, and Project Neighborhood houses in the city of Grand Rapids where students live with mentors in intentional Christian community.  Student life professionals at Calvin view their work as co-curricular, not “extra-curricular,” seeking to serve as partners with the faculty.  Calvin is also active in and strongly supports NCAA Division III Athletics.

Calvin faculty and staff are committed to the college mission and provide stable, consistent service. The average tenure among current faculty and staff members is fourteen years of service and eleven years of service, respectively. Overall employee turnover remains low, and employee surveys show a high degree of satisfaction that translates into a strong student focus. The Scientist ranked Calvin eighth in the magazine’s “40 Best Places to Work in Academia in 2010.”

Calvin College Profile

  • 3,900 students (student-to-faculty ratio is 11:1)
  • Graduation rate is 78%
  • Average ACT score is 26, with over one-third of admitted students qualified for the honors program
  • 21% of the student body is ethnically diverse and/or international
  • 53% from Michigan, 37% from out of state, and 10% from other countries
  • 45% are from a CRCNA church background, 55% from other Christian churches
  • The student body is 53% female and 47% male.
  • More than 90% receive some form of financial aid
  • More than 60% of Calvin students receive academic scholarships
  • 2010-2011 budget is approximately $96 million
  • Endowment of $108 million
  • Beautiful 400 acre campus with architecturally-unified buildings, several of which have been recently renovated.

The Dynamic Opportunities of the Presidency

Part of the work of the president of Calvin College is to help shape the lives of thousands of students who will go on to affect the world in countless ways. At the same time, Calvin also has a vital role in the production and evaluation of knowledge, in doing research for the church and the broader community, and in influencing the world of ideas and practices through the intellectual work of the college.  Thus, the president’s leadership opportunities fall into three interrelated categories—academic, spiritual, and institutional.

Academic Leadership
The president must support the academic mission of the college in its multiple dimensions.  The president encourages and supports the faculty to achieve their best and maintain excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service.  As the leader of an academic institution, the president must be committed to intellectual excellence and rigor, done in the context of and with a commitment to the Reformed theological tradition, while also whole-heartedly fostering and protecting academic freedom. The president should have appropriate academic credentials (e.g. PhD, EdD, ThD) and a significant track record of visionary and collaborative leadership. The president also plays a leadership role in the changing arena in higher education generally and Christian higher education specifically.  The president, in collaboration with the provost, deans, and faculty, directs the ongoing development and evaluation of curricular and co-curricular programs appropriate to a comprehensive liberal arts institution.

Spiritual Leadership
The president must demonstrate a deep and apparent faith in Jesus Christ, a thorough knowledge and embrace of Reformed theology, and a love for the church as established by active, committed participation.  By integrating Reformed perspectives into all aspects of education so that students are prepared to live out their God-given calling, the president takes the lead in presenting a vision for equipping students to make a difference as ambassadors for Christ.  By loving students, faculty, and staff and demonstrating a passion for helping them lead lives of Christian service, the president guides the institution so that it can make a significant and life-changing impact on students.

Institutional Leadership
The president provides leadership that casts a clear vision for the future of the college, ensuring its viability for generations to come.  The president must also have competence in the strategic allocation of financial resources, coupled with a demonstrated ability in developing relationships and alliances to support the work of the college.  The vision promoted by the president should deepen existing stakeholder commitment, invite new stakeholders, and encourage many ways of creative participation. The president inspires and affirms students, faculty, and staff in efforts to create a caring and diverse educational community.  

Leadership Attributes

Visionary and Strategic
The president must be a visionary leader who is able to recognize trends and opportunities that will shape Christian higher education and position the institution to capitalize on and respond to those trends. S/he must be able to cast a compelling vision that inspires others to excellence and strategically lead the college with purpose and clarity to carry out that vision.

Collaborative, yet Decisive
Collaboration is at the heart of a successful working relationship between a college president and his/her many constituents. The president should be known for the participative and collaborative spirit that permeates his/her administration: leading the team relationally, creating synergy, encouraging innovation, and delegating responsibility and authority while demonstrating a high degree of decisiveness.

Visible and Active Communicator
The president must communicate the mission and vision of Calvin with skill, energy, and enthusiasm. In addition to strong interpersonal communication skills, s/he must effectively engage small groups and large audiences, both on the campus and in local and global forums. 

Engaging and Relational
A generous hospitality should be at the heart of a Christian institution.  Because of this, the president should enjoy meeting people in both professional and social settings. Building relationships with a broad range of people—including students, donors, faculty, staff and administration, trustees, denominational leaders, community, political and business leaders—is vital to effective leadership at Calvin.   

Fundraising Aptitude
The president will set the tone and direction for fundraising. Using his/her skill in interpersonal relationships, the president should be able to find common ground between the interest, commitments, and circumstances of donors and the financial needs of the college. 

Culturally Sensitive
For Calvin to reflect the diversity of God’s kingdom, its president should be sensitive to multiple influences and perspectives at work in contemporary culture.  The ideal candidate should have the experience and the ability to handle diverse cultural issues, such as current political, professional, gender, ethnic, racial, environmental stewardship, and ecclesiastical matters, in order to turn challenges into opportunities and to demonstrate Calvin’s commitment to enacting reconciliation and justice in all areas of life.  Not only should the president demonstrate commitment to the objectives articulated in the From Every Nation document, but s/he should also recognize the valuable role the institution plays for Christian educators worldwide.

Covenantal Expectations
Calvin is rooted in the integration of faith and learning built upon Reformed Christian thought. As with all faculty, the president must comply with all three current faculty requirements: signing the Form of Subscription, joining a local congregation belonging to the CRCNA or its ecclesiastically affiliated denominations, and sending children to Christian day schools approved by the college. The Calvin College president should understand, actively support, and promote Christian education at all levels.

Inquiry Process

Our goal is to identify the right fit for both the selected candidate and the Calvin College community. In addition to your C.V., please submit your responses to the following questions:

1. Tell the story of your Christian faith, including involvement in your local church, and how your relationship with Christ has shaped your career and influenced your decision to apply for this position. 

2. Describe your understanding of the Reformed Christian tradition and how this understanding would inform your leadership as president of Calvin College.

3. Discuss the marks of maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith that need to be nurtured in students if a Christian college is to prepare them for lives of service and leadership in church and society.

4. Describe the essential elements of your leadership style and how this style would enable you to excel in the academic, spiritual, and institutional leadership of Calvin.

a. Include a succinct example of one successful and one disappointing experience from your leadership in each of the areas above.  What did you learn from each?

b. Share your experiences in fund-raising and advancement. If you do not have specific development experience, elaborate on the skills you believe can help you be successful in this critical function.

c. Give examples of how you have led and managed a team of strong, creative individuals. Highlight your use of good communication strategies, decision-making processes, and strategic thinking.

d. Describe a significant conflict from the last three years that occurred among the faculty, staff, or a direct reporting team you manage, and describe how you engaged in and resolved the conflict.  Conversely, if it was poorly resolved, explain what you learned from that experience.

5. Describe your vision for the next ten years of Calvin College, and detail how you would align stakeholders around that vision.

Please provide seven references (your pastor, two leaders for whom you have worked, two former or current subordinates, and two colleagues). We will not contact these references until later in the process and will ask for your approval prior to making contact.

Please submit your cover letter, CV and answers to these questions (Microsoft Word or pdf format) to:

or by regular mail to:

Presidential Search Committee
Calvin College
3201 Burton, SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

For full consideration, all documents should be submitted by September 30, 2011.

If you have any questions, please contact our consultant, Robert Stevenson, of SIMA International at our confidential website: