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Self-Study Report: Chapter One

A Dynamic Decade

Calvin College has been accredited as a baccalaureate, degree-granting college by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association since 1930. In 1975 accreditation was also granted at the master’s degree level. The result of the college’s latest accreditation review, conducted in 1994, was that accreditation was renewed without conditions for a ten-year period. This chapter provides (1) a summary of the findings of the 1994 review and how they were addressed by the college, (2) a survey of major changes since the 1994 review, and (3) a description of the current self-study process.

Responding to the 1994 Review

As a comprehensive college with a variety of professional degree programs, Calvin College enjoys accreditation for specific programs from a variety of national professional bodies:1

Table 1.1 Professional Programs Receiving National Accreditation

Teacher Education
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
American Chemical Society
National Association of Schools of Music
Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
Bachelor in Computer Science
Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET
Social Work
Council on Social Work Education
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Accreditation

The college has sought new accreditation from each of these bodies since 1994 and has found that the demands that accreditors make for the evaluation of programs can help these programs become more reflective and purposeful.

The 1994 Higher Learning Commission review team found Calvin to be a sound institution with “a well-articulated and highly visible mission,” operating with a good deal of collegial trust, dedication, and high morale among faculty, administration, and staff, with an outstanding physical plant and a record of financial stability. The team noted, however, two areas of college life that provided “some risk to its full effectiveness.” These were a need for development in the area of comprehensive institutional planning and a need to improve the status of women on Calvin’s campus.2

In addition to these findings, the review team listed six areas in which it recognized a “need for improvement.” These were: (1) in the aftermath of administrative reorganization and changes in governance structure, to look at communication processes and outcomes; (2) to continue the pursuit of very promising development efforts; (3) to maintain the momentum generated by the successful capital campaign; (4) to explore mutual educational goals between faculty and the student life staff; (5) to develop a comprehensive vision for the place of various forms of technology in Calvin’s future; and (6) to monitor student financial aid carefully.3

Institutional Planning

The first area identified by the visiting team in 1994 as one in which the college’s full effectiveness was at risk was institutional planning. The team asked whether existing structures of institutional planning adequately positioned the college to meet new challenges in fulfilling its mission in the years ahead. The college addressed this issue by revising its processes of strategic planning and by creating a new Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research.

The college has moved to a rolling model of annual planning, meaning that the process of institutional planning is continuous rather than occasional. The college’s strategic plan and goals are arrived at by the strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats ( SWOT) method of analysis of emerging trends. The process of planning is supervised by a committee of the faculty governance system, the Planning and Priorities Committee ( PPC), which was created in 1995 out of the existing Priorities Committee, given an expanded mandate, and made to include faculty, trustees, the Student Senate president, and members of the President’s Cabinet.

The college adjusted its planning procedures in keeping with this new model of strategic planning. Determined to put to work the objectives of the five-year plan published in early 19974 and not let it “go the way of many documents of its kind: once they are finished, they tend to be forgotten,” the provost initiated a mid-course review of progress on the strategic plan already in the fall of 1998.5 The Planning and Priorities Committee then appointed a task force, which gave a detailed report on the college’s progress to the Faculty Senate in March 1999. The process and production of the current five-year plan (2002-2007) grew out of this PPC review.6 Seeing the strategic plan as “the marching orders of the college,” many offices of the college reviewed their objectives and reoriented them toward the goals of the strategic plan and the mission of the college.

Second, the Office of Institutional and Enrollment Research was created. This office supplies the quantitative data used in the process of institutional evaluation, assessment, and strategic planning. It records, analyzes, and publishes on its Web site data and reports that are of fundamental importance to the ongoing work of the college. Especially important are the “ Day Ten Enrollment Figures,” which are data reports of the composition of the enrolled student body and teaching faculty.7

These issues are addressed in greater detail in chapter two. This report fits into this planning cycle as the first step of a mid-course review of the current strategic plan.

The Status of Women

The second area identified by the visiting team of 1994 as one in which Calvin’s full effectiveness was at risk was that of the role of women on campus. At the time of the 1994 report, 19 percent of full-time faculty members (44 of 230) were women. Of these, 14 (32 percent) were tenured, and about half were on tenure-track appointments. Significant gains have been made in the number of women on the faculty since 1994. The number of women on the faculty has more than doubled, and the number of tenured female faculty members has increased by 50 percent.

The college has identified areas of concern among female faculty members and has gauged their level of job satisfaction. Calvin faculty have participated in two national studies of the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA since the 1994 accreditation review—the first in 1998-1999 and the second in 2001-2002. The 1998 study showed a strong disparity of responses between female and male faculty members in certain areas. To cite one example, in the 1998 survey 69 percent of male faculty members expressed satisfaction with their teaching loads, but only 56 percent of female faculty members said they were satisfied. In the 2001 survey, however, the numbers were reversed, as 70 percent of female faculty reported satisfaction with their teaching loads, but only 55 percent of male faculty reported satisfaction.8

There also remain differences of opinion between male and female faculty members at Calvin in several areas, as identified by the HERI survey of 2001. Far more men than women believed that female faculty members were treated fairly at Calvin.9 Women reported feeling stress about aspects of their jobs that men did not feel: twice as many women as men experienced stress in the review and promotion process; female faculty members were nearly three times as likely as their male colleagues to report that feelings of subtle discrimination were a source of stress to them; and women were more stressed over research and publishing demands, over students, and over institutional “red tape.”10 Women also reported spending slightly more time than men on their teaching but far more time attending to household and child care responsibilities. One salient concern among female faculty with children was the need for adequate child care.11 In response, in 2002-2004 the Planning and Priorities Committee conducted a needs assessment survey and a feasibility study regarding a daycare service. The committee concluded that the college should focus instead on a short-stay drop-in center and a referral service. Those were approved by the committee in the spring of 2004.12

In response to the 1998-1999 HERI survey, the Gender Equity Committee commissioned a gender climate survey in 2001. The survey confirmed the disparities in stress and satisfaction between male and female faculty, and identified a variety of felt needs. One encouraging finding of the survey was that junior women faculty were more likely than tenured women to express satisfaction with their jobs. The survey also showed marked differences between the concerns of faculty and the concerns of staff. The gender differences in levels of stress and satisfaction for faculty were largely absent among staff. The findings stressed, however, a desire for a greater number of women in leadership positions in the college and faculty. Staff members also expressed concern about faculty respect for their work and their role in fulfilling the mission of the college.13

A study of the gender climate among the student body is planned and will be conducted in 2004-2005.

Several policy changes also have been implemented to improve the situation of women faculty members. These include the option of appointment to the faculty in shared spousal positions,opportunities for temporary interruptions of the tenure clock for family reasons, and opportunities for reduced-load tenure-track appointments. Programmatic changes have also occurred; for example, there is now available an interdisciplinary minor in gender studies. Concerns still exist, particularly about the small number of women in positions in which significant institutional decision- making takes place, especially department chairs, academic deans, and senior administrative positions. Among the academic deans, however, three of the give posts are held by women.

Issues concerning gender and the status of women are taken up in greater detail in chapters two, three, and give, but even this short summary indicates the careful attention and responsive problem-solving that the college has undertaken to address these gender concerns.

Communication Processes and Outcomes

The visiting team of 1994 identified six areas in which the college had room for improvement. The first of these was the challenge of improving its processes of communication.

Several steps have been taken to meet this challenge. In 1994 this issue arose in the particular context of an impending administrative reorganization and simultaneous turnover in the senior administration of the college. Faculty and staff expressed some anxiety at the growing salience of the President’s Cabinet and other administrative developments, and the decision to adopt a representative model of faculty governance. These changes coincided with the retirement of President Anthony Diekema and the arrival of President Gaylen Byker.

The specific concerns expressed at that time regarding processes of communication have proven to be less burdensome than might have been expected. One measure of the confidence in the administration of the college might be that the 2001 HERI survey reported that only 6 percent of Calvin faculty members thought that the faculty was typically “at odds with” the administration, compared with 15 percent at peer institutions.14 This finding does not completely resolve the problem. The perception persists among some faculty members that over the past ten years the faculty’s role in governance has diminished. The subject is complicated, but perhaps it comes down to two main issues. The first concerns the relationship between the President’s Cabinet and the faculty committee structure—specifically, the Planning and Priorities Committee. The second concerns the effective influence of the Faculty Senate.

These issues will be taken up in greater detail in chapter two of this report.

Development and the Capital Campaign

The 1994 accreditation report encouraged the college to continue its promising development efforts. It noted that the capital campaign had exceeded its original goal and urged that the momentum be continued to ensure the ongoing success of the college.

The 1994 review team visited the campus while the college was in the middle of a comprehensive campaign. By the time the campaign concluded in 1996, it had exceeded its initial goal of raising $35 million, had established a new goal of $50 million, and had surpassed that goal as well, ultimately raising $58 million.15

In response to the 1994 self-study, the college’s Advancement Division was reorganized. Its development office was separated out and made into the Development Division, headed by a vice president. An office that in the late 1980s was staffed by six people now has a staff of two dozen. As a result, the division has raised more money each year since the end of the comprehensive campaign than in any year during the campaign.16

The remaining offices of the Advancement Division— Alumni and Public Relations, Admissions, Financial Aid, Media Relations, and Institutional and Enrollment Research—were moved into the Division of Enrollment and External Relations, also headed by a vice president.

These issues are taken up in greater detail in chapters two and give of this report.

Student Life

The 1994 visiting team advised the college of the need to improve the links between its student life structures and its academic programs.

The 1994 self-study process and accreditation review generated an internal review by the “Student Affairs” Division. Besides renaming itself the Student Life Division, the division adopted a new mission statement, new objectives, and a commitment to partner with faculty in accordance with the visiting team’s recommendation.17 Planning and implementation of the new core curriculum provided some opportunity for this to happen, as the Student Life Division was represented on the Core Curriculum Committee. The new core curriculum itself affords new levels of cooperation between the Student Life Division and the Academic Affairs Division in the linked content of curricular programs aimed at first-year students: Student Life’s Prelude program in the fall semester and the Academic Affairs Division’s course in the January Interim, Developing a Christian Mind.

Issues concerning the Student Life Division are considered in greater detail in chapters three and four of this report.


In fulfillment of another need highlighted by the 1994 accreditation review, a study of Calvin’s information services was commissioned. It was carried out by consultants from Purdue University, who recommended that oversight of the office of Information Technology, the Audio-Visual Department, and the Hekman Library be consolidated in a single division.

These departments had been recognized as increasingly significant for the academic mission of the college, but the existing administrative structures worked against their effective coordination. Accordingly, a new position of vice president for information services was created, and Henry De Vries was appointed in 1997 to fill it. The administrative restructuring was facilitated by the appointment of Glenn Remelts, former technical services librarian, as director of the Hekman Library. When for the first time a full-time archivist and curator of Heritage Hall, Richard Harms, was appointed, the significance of this collection and its role as the active memory of the college and its mission came to light, and it, too, was brought into the new division. The new Information Services Division actively pursued an instructional, outreach-oriented relationship with faculty and staff. The Hekman Library project of 1995-1997 has greatly expanded technological facilities and services. Calvin Information Technology (CIT) now coordinates computing and information services across the campus and occupies the entirety of the remodeled first level of the Hekman Library. Inside the library itself, an additional floor was added, affording increased study space and catalog-access computer stations on each floor. An exterior facelift also gave the library greater architectural prominence on campus. Often, staff members from the Hekman Library, CIT, Heritage Hall, and Audio-Visual Department serve functionally as research and information services instructors. CIT staff members contributed to the plans for the new core curriculum’s Research and Information Technology (RIT) course, and they teach some sections of it.

Issues related to information technology are dealt with in more detail in chapters two, three, and give of this report.

Financial Aid

Finally, the 1994 visiting team also expressed concern about the level of competitive financial aid that the college offered to prospective students. Increased Presidential and National Merit Finalist awards had been phased in, and the college’s “discount rate” (i.e., the percentage of tuition charged that is returned to students in financial aid) reached 28 percent. This rate was higher than many at the college wanted to see it.

Grounding its strategy in a realistic appraisal of the “sticker-price” sensitivity of its main constituency, the college has followed a strategy of lowering the discount rate rather than raising tuition substantially. In this it has been successful, as tuition has increased 28 percent over the past give years, while student financial aid has grown at a slower rate; thus the discount rate has come down, standing now at 23.9 percent. At present, 62 percent of Calvin students receive some form of need-based financial aid.

Financial aid issues are treated in greater depth in chapter two.

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Calvin College since 1994

The following summary of the main lines of development at Calvin College over the past ten years gives the fuller context of these changes.


After the enrollment decline of the early 1990s, the size of the student body today (approximately 4,300 students) is 16 percent larger than it was ten years ago and is nearly the size of the peak years of the late 1980s. More importantly, the current student body includes roughly 4,100 full-time equivalent (FTE) traditional undergraduates, right at the college’s targeted optimum figure. The percentage of Calvin students who are members of the Christian Reformed Church has steadily declined during the past ten years, standing at just under half today. The Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College (ESM) makes it clear, however, that the college still sees itself as the primary institution of higher education of the Christian Reformed Church and still sees as an important part of its mission the education of the youth of the church. Alumni loyalty shows up in enrollment as well; 37 percent of the students are the children of alumni.

At the same time, the college has seen success in its efforts to build a more diverse student body, in keeping with the vision outlined in the ESM. About 4.6 percent of Calvin students are drawn from the four principal North American minority populations, compared with 4.1 percent ten years ago. Another 1 percent are in the “other” category (e.g., Arab descent or mixed race). An additional 4.5 percent are international students (other than Canadians), most of whom are from Asia and Africa. This group has more than doubled in size over the past decade. The most obvious fruits of Calvin’s efforts to diversify can be seen in the growing religious diversity of the student body. More than half of the student body now comes from denominations other than the Christian Reformed Church.18


The faculty, administration, and staff of Calvin College share a remarkable commitment to the mission of the college. The four main tasks of Calvin faculty—teaching, scholarship, advising, and community service—are an active expression of the mission of the college to prepare students for lives of service in the world, to produce works of art and scholarship, and to act as a caring and responsible institution of higher learning in American society.

Calvin’s full-time faculty of 305 is increasingly diverse. The number of female faculty members and of faculty from communities of color has increased. In every year, beginning in 1991-1992, more than half of the new faculty appointments were graduates of colleges other than Calvin College and came from denominations other than the Christian Reformed Church.19

The changing composition of the Calvin faculty has brought a vigorous discussion of the religious expectations of Calvin faculty members, widely known as the “faculty membership requirements.” Faculty members are expected to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the Reformed Christian mission of the college. Specifically, this means that they must subscribe to the three foundational doctrinal statements accepted as authoritative by the Christian Reformed Church—namely, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. They must be members of the Christian Reformed Church or of a church that is in ecclesiastical fellowship with the Christian Reformed Church.20 And they must support Christian schooling, which, if they have children, means enrolling them in Christian schools. These requirements—and the procedures for requesting exceptions to them—have been clarified in recent years, and the significance of the requirements for the identity of the college has been defended.21 Discussion of their role in the life of the college is ongoing.

Attracting and retaining a high-quality faculty in the competitive world of American higher education today obliges the college to earn the loyalty of new faculty members who are unfamiliar with the history and traditions of the college. To accomplish this, several new initiatives and programs have been established. A January Interim program called the Kuiper Seminar, designed for faculty members in their first or second year at Calvin, introduces all new faculty members to the Reformed tradition of Christianity and to the history and mission of the college. Meanwhile, the timetable for faculty promotion and tenure was revised and regularized in keeping with national standards in American higher education. Revision of the faculty pay scale has allowed for a modest increase in the top salaries for the faculty. The total compensation package has remained competitive, due particularly to expansion of benefits. These include a continued substantial subsidy of health care, an 80 percent reduction of Calvin tuition for children of faculty and staff members, and a new partial subsidy of Christian grade school (grades K-12) tuition for the children of faculty and staff. The Planning and Priorities Committee has made raising Calvin’s relatively low faculty salaries a priority, and in 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 two of four projected increases beyond the annual cost-of-living increase were implemented.

As the demand for sabbaticals and research leaves has increased (sabbatical applications increased 61 percent from 1998 to 2001), opportunities for funding for sabbaticals and Calvin Research Fellowships have also increased. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of faculty members eligible for sabbaticals take advantage of this funding,22 which now routinely includes the January Interim in addition to the semester leave of absence. The office of Research and Scholarship was created in 1997 to coordinate these faculty research support activities and assist in seeking grants. At the same time, college expectations of faculty were made more explicit in revised departmental standards for scholarship.

Another tactic to broaden research opportunities on campus and to guide the fuller integration of research production with teaching, in keeping with the mission of the college, has been the expansion of endowed chairs, research centers and institutes, and summer research seminars. Endowed chairs have enabled the recruitment of prominent Christian faculty through focused support for research and program development. In addition to the older research centers on campus with established reputations in Christian higher learning, new institutes have been founded. Additional discussion of support for research can be found in chapter five.


The executive level of the college administration saw significant turnover in the years immediately following the last accreditation review in 1994. The picture has stabilized during the last four years, with a leadership team in place made up of the president, the provost, and four other vice presidents.

In the fall of 1995 Gaylen Byker became the ninth president of Calvin College, succeeding Anthony Diekema, who had headed the college for two decades. Under President Byker’s leadership significant developments have taken place in the administration of the college. Joel Carpenter brought both extensive administrative experience and intellectual leadership to the college when he arrived from the Pew Charitable Trusts as provost in 1996.

The President’s Cabinet consists of the provost and four vice presidents. Robert Berkhof, vice president for development, has eighteen years’ experience at Calvin and previously served as executive associate to the president. Henry De Vries, vice president for administration, finance, and information services, came to Calvin to head new initiatives in information services in 1997. He added administration and finance to his portfolio in 2000. Shirley Hoogstra, vice president for student life, had been a partner in a private law practice and a member of Calvin’s Board of Trustees before taking her current post in 1999. Tom McWhertor, vice president for enrollment and external relations, has been at Calvin since 1991.


The administrative staff members at Calvin share with the faculty a robust sense of mission, which is communicated in the process of staff recruitment, in the staff orientation program, and through the overall ethos of the work environment at Calvin. The college enjoys a high level of staff morale and loyalty.

Calvin’s comparatively low 1.18 to 1 ratio of full-time administrative staff to full-time faculty is partially a reflection of the degree to which Calvin College is still a strongly faculty-run institution. Many administrative posts and all deanships are filled by men and women who continue to be teaching faculty. This fact of campus life and work translates into a high degree of administrative efficiency and carries positive consequences for the financial operations of the college. That Calvin has been able to sustain this pattern over a long period of time is eloquent testimony to the level of identification with and commitment to the mission of the college that pervades all levels of the administration and staff. For most of its employees, Calvin College is a good place to work.23

On the other hand, the leanness of the administrative staff presents the college with the challenge of maintaining this high morale among its staff as it tries to balance the expectations of the workplace with, for example, the equally important demands of family life. To use an athletic metaphor, few offices at Calvin have good “bench depth.” Only 73 full-time employees at Calvin are classified as “clerical and secretarial,” and many employees find themselves playing the full 60 minutes with a limited number of time-outs.

An assessment survey that was completed in 1999 motivated changes in staff structures and compensation. Ten grades were created, and salaries were recalibrated accordingly. Salaries are now escalated according to the CPI without significantly altering the outstanding benefits package, which is substantially the same as that offered to faculty.24

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Changes within Divisions

Academic Affairs Division

The most significant change in the Academic Affairs Division of the college in the years since Calvin’s last accreditation review has been the preparation and implementation of a new core curriculum. The new core curriculum was the first thorough revision of the core curriculum at Calvin since the late 1960s. Implemented beginning in academic year 2001-2002,25 the new core curriculum can be expected to profoundly shape learning at Calvin for the next generation.

The process that the college followed in constructing, writing, and winning faculty approval of the new core curriculum was significant in at least three ways. First, the process gave an opportunity to test formats of assessment in a fundamentally important academic program and to build structures and processes for ongoing assessment into this new program from the beginning. Thus, when the new core curriculum was implemented, it came with an assessment plan embedded within it.26 Second, the successful passage of the proposal was a test of the new system of faculty governance, which places the representative Faculty Senate alongside periodic full faculty meetings. The core curriculum was passed by the full faculty in a meeting with broad participation by faculty members. Third, the prologue of the new core curriculum proposal gained immediate acclaim from a wide audience among the faculty and staff because it gave fresh expression to the vision of the college, linking curriculum to the mission of the college as a Reformed Christian institution of higher learning.

The Academic Affairs Division has given significant attention to issues of assessment. The college adopted an assessment plan in April 1994, just give months before its 1994 accreditation review. The plan drew attention to the purpose of assessment: to guide the orderly and purposeful pursuit of the college’s mission.27 The assessment plan called for the involvement of administration, faculty, student development staff, and students in planning assessment, and called for each educational program of the college to write an assessment plan. Chapters three, four, and give of this report highlight developments in assessment since 1994.

Another major change in the academic program was the transition to a new system of accounting for academic credit at Calvin using semester hours rather than course units. In this change the office of the Registrar was forced to compromise a cherished icon of the egalitarian nature of the academic mission of the college, according to which every full semester course at Calvin carried the same academic credit. At the same time, however, the semester-hour system permitted greater flexibility, and because semester hours represent something close to an “industry standard” in higher education, the move gave significantly improved transferability of credits to Calvin students.

In addition to these changes the Academic Affairs Division saw the expansion of off-campus programs, academically based service-learning, and interdisciplinary programs. Fresh accreditation came for Calvin’s nursing, education, music, engineering, computer science, and social work programs. Meanwhile, academic programs in criminal justice and in sports medicine were phased out.

Calvin also experimented with an accelerated degree program, the Calvin Accelerated Program (CAP). The program received strong reviews from its participants, but it was under-enrolled and was phased out in 1997.28

Student Life Division

As noted above, the 1994 self-study and site visit provided the impetus for assessment, strategic planning, and restructuring in what is now known as the Student Life Division. The Student Life Division consists of eight departments:

Student Development Office, including the Student Activities Office, Multicultural Student Development, and the Service-Learning Center

  • Office of Residence Life
  • Judicial Affairs
  • Health Services
  • Office of the College Chaplain
  • Career Development
  • Broene Counseling Center
  • Office of Campus Safety

Changing the division’s name from the Student Affairs Division to the Student Life Division signaled a shift of emphasis. Accordingly, the division adopted a new mission statement that stressed its role in challenging and supporting students’ search for meaning in their college experience. The division also specifically committed itself to enhanced linkages between its programs and objectives and those of the Academic Affairs Division of the college.

Development Division

Historically, Calvin’s role as the college of the Christian Reformed Church meant that the college could rely on the support of its traditional constituency to meet its financial goals. The college made only modest efforts at external fundraising until the 1980s, relying instead on student tuition dollars and on assessments paid by the member congregations of the Christian Reformed Church. Today, these denominational ministry shares still bring in $2.9 million annually, but now account for only about 4.5 percent of the college’s operating budget. At the same time, the Development Division’s fundraising success has multiplied. Its annual unrestricted giving program, the Calvin Fund, grew from $1.2 million in 1990 to $3 million in 2003. The total funds raised per year increased from $3 million in 1990 to $19 million in 2003.

In the economic climate of recent years the Development Division has focused on improving donor relations and administrative resources in order to broaden the capacity for future fundraising efforts. These efforts include the Development Division’s strategy to launch the public phase of a new capital campaign within the next year.29

Administration and Finance Division

The Administration and Finance Division and the Information Services Division currently are headed by a single vice president. In these realms Calvin College looks like a different place than it was ten years ago.

Most striking is the growth of campus architecture. Several significant building projects have been completed, and a cycle of maintenance and renovation of existing facilities, some of which are now 35 to 40 years old, is well underway. The office of the College Architect, established in 1997, coordinates the planning and execution of changes in the physical plant. The position of college architect is held by Frank Gorman, an architect who works for Calvin College full time. The campus master plan not only gives coherence to the architectural vision of the college but also coordinates the physical structure with the mission of the college, ensuring that projects follow priorities that arise from the mission and are identified through the strategic planning process.30

Most noticeable, perhaps, is the expansion of the campus east of the East Beltline, where construction of the DeVos Communication Center and the Prince Conference Center was completed in 2002. The Bunker Interpretive Center for the Ecosystem Preserve was completed in 2004. On the main campus an engineering projects facility was built; a major laboratory facility, DeVries Hall, was attached to the Science Building; a floor was added to the Hiemenga Hall classroom facility; and a floor was added to the Hekman Library. Installation of additional lighting, a paved walking and jogging path, emergency telephones, and an enclosed pedestrian bridge over the East Beltline have improved safety and security on campus.

Information Services Division

In a manner similar to other units on campus, Calvin Information Services (CIS) has undergone a transformation in keeping with the notion that the academic mission drives the college. The mission of this division is no longer that of providing a utilities service to the administration, staff, and faculty of the college. Rather, it has emerged as a partner with the Academic Affairs Division. The Blackboard software installed by Calvin Information Technology (CIT) makes it possible for faculty to integrate technology and teaching by digitizing numerous aspects of the classroom, from assignments and grading to communication with students. Additionally, CIT personnel are involved in teaching a component of the core curriculum, a required one-semester hour course titled Research and Information Technology.

Similarly, the Hekman Library, which is now under CIS, is aligned with the academic mission in a more traditional way. Librarians all serve as liaisons with academic departments, and they also work as educators, partnering with numerous departments to teach the use of research technology to students and faculty.

Enrollment and External Relations Division

Five offices comprise the Enrollment and External Relations Division: Admissions, Scholarships and Financial Aid, Institutional and Enrollment Research, Media Relations, and Alumni and Public Relations. The latter two were separated into distinct offices in 2000.

Since the 1994 review the division has worked to develop and present an integrated message about the mission of the college to external audiences. For many audiences, their first encounter with the mission of Calvin College occurs through the college’s Web site and the promotional literature of this division. The brand and tagline, Calvin: Minds in the Making, are the fruits of a mission-driven approach to promotion.31 The division has responded to the changing make-up of the Calvin student body and alumni by developing new admissions and financial aid strategies and programs. The office of Institutional and Enrollment Research has played an increasingly significant role in institutional assessment and planning since its creation in 1996.

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The Self-Study, 2002-2004

An ad hoc group commissioned by the Planning and Priorities Committee worked during the fall of 2001 to plan an accreditation review. In February 2002 Faculty Senate approved the resulting proposal from the Planning and Priorities Committee to form a self-study committee. The Self-Study Committee is a task force of the Planning and Priorities Committee and reports to that committee and to Faculty Senate. The committee members are as follows:

  • Claudia Beversluis, dean for instruction and the chief officer for academic assessment, and a member of the psychology department
  • Joel Carpenter, provost, and the self-study coordinator
  • Henry De Vries, vice president for administration, finance, and information services
  • Susan Felch, professor of English
  • Mary Horning, Student Senate representative
  • Douglas Howard, professor and chairperson of the history department, and principal writer of the self-study report
  • Darlene Meyering, executive associate to the president
  • Kenneth Piers, professor of chemistry
  • Corwin Smidt, professor of political science and director of the Paul B. Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics
  • Michael Stob, academic dean for the divisions of contextual disciplines and of natural sciences and mathematics
  • Tom Van Eck, director of institutional and enrollment research
  • John Witte, dean of residence life

During the summer of 2002 this committee made several important procedural decisions. It decided to base its work on the new rather than the old accreditation criteria from the Higher Learning Commission, and it sketched out a table of contents and the sub-themes and content for each chapter of the self-study document. The committee’s full self-study plan was forwarded to its Higher Learning Commission liaison, Dr. John Taylor, who reviewed the plan and made an initial visit to Calvin in December 2002.

The new criteria for re- accreditation are so closely interrelated that there seemed to be little advantage in organizing the institutional self-study by chapter committees. Nor did commissioning self-studies from each unit of the college seem advisable, since the college was in the middle of a planning cycle, with such work due to commence in 2005. Moreover, the college, and the existing units of the college—academic and administrative departments, committees, programs, and others—have studied themselves regularly during the past ten years through the processes of strategic planning and have produced a considerable body of data and documentation that serves as the foundation for this self-study report.

Accordingly, the committee decided that rather than forming subcommittees that would be responsible for writing separate chapters of the self-study report, the committee itself would compile and prepare the documentation with a view toward the whole. The committee appointed a main writer who worked under its direction. Adequate structures came into place to gather this material and review the self-study report as it was being written. In order to ensure the fullest possible campus involvement in the process, every office and department of the college was canvassed for reviews of the first two drafts of this report. Members of the Self-Study Committee acted as liaisons to departments and other units of the college, channeling feedback on successive drafts and revisions of the several chapters of the report as they were reviewed by the full college.

A full draft of the introductory chapter and outlines of the following chapters were reviewed by all academic departments, administrative offices, and faculty committees in the spring of 2003.

The Self-Study Committee then worked on a first full draft of the self-study report during the summer of 2003. This first draft, with completed chapters one through five and detailed outlines of the rest, was circulated to the college faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees for review and feedback during the fall of 2003. After revisions were made and the remaining chapters were written, a full draft was reviewed by the faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees in the spring of 2004. Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees approved this draft and authorized final editorial work, which occurred during the summer of 2004.

The finished self-study report is scheduled to be sent to the evaluating team by early fall of 2004. The team’s campus visit is scheduled on November 8-10, 2004. This study will then shape the mid-course review of the current strategic plan and the beginning of the work on the next plan, due in 2007.

Over the past decade Calvin College has been developing at a quick-step tempo. It has witnessed a growing enrollment, dramatic additions and improvements in facilities, a major reorganization of its administrative divisions under new executive leadership, and a new core curriculum. In the two main areas in which improvement was advised—in strategic planning and the role of women—major steps have been taken to address weaknesses. The result is a dynamic, busy, and accomplished institution, with a new determination to engage broader realms—in the church, in higher education, and in civic life. The chapters that follow will examine more closely how the college’s efforts correspond to the Higher Learning Commission’s new criteria for accreditation.

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  1. The most recent self-studies and accreditors’ reports for these programs are available in the self-study resource room.
  2. Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, “Report of a Visit to Calvin College,” October 17-19, 1994, pp. 41-42.
  3. Ibid., pp. 43-44.
  4. “Goals and Strategies for Calvin College, 1997-2002.”
  5. Joel Carpenter to Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees, “Review of Strategic Plan,” March 26, 1999, PPC98-18.
  6. Distinctively Christian, Academically Excellent, Always Reforming: A Five-Year Plan, 2002-2007, May 2002.
  7. See the Web page of the Offi ce of Institutional and Enrollment Research:
  8. “HERI Faculty Survey Report: Calvin College,” 2002, p. 3. We do not know why this reversal of opinion occurred. We resist the idea that the satisfaction of one gender comes at the expense of the other. Future surveys should help us assess these curious results.
  9. Ibid., p. 17.
  10. Ibid., p. 4.
  11. Ibid., p. 8.
  12. S. Hoogstra and T. Hubers to G. Byker, Cabinet, and PPC, January 28, 2004, and April 6, 2004.
  13. Selzer and Company, “Calvin College Gender Climate Staff Survey,” October 2001, pp. x-1, x-2.
  14. “HERI Faculty Survey Report,” 2002, p. 18.
  15. Cheryl Nielsen, “The Campaign for Calvin College: Executive Summary,” September 27, 1996.
  16. Lois Konyndyk to Joel Carpenter, July 8, 2004.
  17. “Mission Statement of the Student Life Division,” May 1994.
  18. The enrollment facts cited in these two paragraphs above come from “Calvin College Fall Day Ten Ten-Year Enrollment History, 1994-2003,”
  19. This information was compiled from individual faculty candidates’ brief dossiers in annual agenda books for the Board of Trustees.
  20. These include the following in North America: Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Reformed Church in America, and Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.
  21. “Committee on Faculty Appointments: A Report Approved by Action of the College Board of Trustees,” May 1993; and “Clarifi cation of Calvin Faculty Membership Requirements and Procedures for Requesting Exceptions,” November 1995.
  22. Janel Curry, “Report on Sabbaticals and CRFs,” August 2001.
  23. “Best Christian Places to Work,” Christianity Today 2003 Survey Feedback Results, February 24, 2003.
  24. “PDP Values and Focus,”
  25. An Engagement with God’s World: The Core Curriculum of Calvin College, 1999.
  26. “An Assessment Plan for the Core Curriculum,” February 24, 2000. See also An Engagement with God’s World: The Core Curriculum of Calvin College, appendix B, 1999.
  27. “Assessment Program of Calvin College,” April 1994.
  28. “Comprehensive Evaluation of the Calvin Accelerated Program,” March 1997; Joel Carpenter to PPC, April 29, 1997.
  29. “Calvin College Draft Campaign Plan,” September 17, 2003; “No Greater Task: Hearts and Minds Renewing God’s World: The Campaign for Calvin College,” case statement, October 14, 2003.
  30. “Campus Master Plan,” April 15, 1999.
  31. Crane MetaMarketing, "Calvin College: Institutional Positioning and Marketing Summary," 2001.

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