Self-Study Report: Chapter Five
Acquisition, Discovery, and Application of Knowledge
At Calvin College, attitudes toward inquiry and creativity are shaped by a strong religious tradition in which cultivation of the life of the mind is not an arid or isolated pursuit; rather, it is respected as an appropriate response to the Creator and is aimed at the fulfillment of social responsibility. Through various institutionalized structures, the college recognizes and supports the practice of inquiry as a holistic endeavor, bearing fruit in publication, presentation, and performance in an organic relationship with teaching and learning.
Learning and Mission: Maintaining a Community of Learning
There has been an assumption in contemporary American academic life that religion has little to do with the life of the mind. Likewise, there has been a scandalous situation among American evangelicals, which historian Mark Noll identifies as there being “not much of an evangelical mind.”1 Calvin College, by contrast, has stood as an anomaly in the American academy and as a beacon to American evangelicalism. It resolutely insists on the integral relationship of Christian faith and intellectual life. As the college of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Calvin has placed itself explicitly in the tradition of St. Augustine, John Calvin, and the Dutch Calvinist theologian, educator, and politician Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), who founded the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880 and was prime minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. In his address inaugurating the Free University of Amsterdam, Kuyper proclaimed that
For Kuyper, Christ’s sovereignty over creation includes the human mind. At Calvin College, the common task, the project in which all campus community members are engaged, is fleshing out the meaning of Christian faith for scholarship and cultural creativity in all of the academic disciplines. Calvin scholars seek to articulate a Christian voice in the American academy and to transform academic culture for God’s glory.3 Since the 1920s Calvin College has been the clearest American embodiment of Kuyper’s intellectual vision, and it has donated to American intellectual life a vocabulary and grammar for integrating faith and learning. Drawing on its intellectually animated, richly theological tradition of cultural and scientific engagement, the college has bequeathed to American higher education a long list of well-known Christian scholars and teachers, including philosophers William Harry Jellema, Alvin Plantinga, and Nicholas Wolterstorff; Fuller Theological Seminary president Richard Mouw; and historian George Marsden. All spent many years on the Calvin faculty.4
Faculty members at Calvin are keenly aware of the strength of the intellectual tradition in which they work and are sensitive to the fact that each of the above named scholars went out from the Calvin College faculty to make a broader impact from faculty positions at research institutions. Calvin faculty members strive to keep the torch of integrally Christian scholarship lit and to pass it on to a new generation, to express a distinctively Christian voice in the American academy while still intending, like the Christian Reformed Church, to look “very different from most of twentieth-century American evangelicalism.”5
A Talented and Committed Faculty
Calvin’s faculty hiring processes also demonstrate the college’s continued attention to maintaining its strong intellectual tradition. Departments conduct national searches for permanent positions. An unusual feature of Calvin’s searches is that all are open in rank. Indeed, of the 57 tenure-track appointments made at the college since 1999-2000, 23 (40 percent) were at the associate or full professor rank. When term appointments are added, 48 out of a total of 140 full-time faculty appointments (34 percent) since 1999-2000 have been at the associate professor or full professor rank.
Table 5.1 Rank of Recent Faculty Appointments
Calvin has made effective use of endowed chairs, especially the Spoelhof Chair and the Byker Chair, to attract and retain outstanding faculty members at the senior level. Spoelhof Chair holders have included philosopher C. Stephen Evans, geography scholar Janel Curry, rhetoric scholar Helen Sterk, historian of East Asia Daniel Bays, geologist Gerald Van Kooten, and documentary filmmaker James Ault. Curry, Sterk, and Bays remain on the Calvin faculty, Curry as the dean for research and scholarship. Evans also held that post for three of his eight years on the Calvin faculty. Van Kooten has returned to Calvin this fall to a tenure-track post. The first holder of the Byker Chair, which, unlike the Spoelhof Chair, has no term limit, is Paul Freston, a sociologist and leading scholar of Latin American Protestantism, who joined the faculty in 2003.6
Calvin College’s unitary and fairly fl at pay structure has important complicating consequences for recruiting a strong faculty. On the one hand, because all faculty of equal rank and years of experience are paid equally, the pay structure can work against hiring “established and productive” scholars at universities with more steeply ranked pay scales. It can also hinder the recruiting of faculty whose professional fields offer them lucrative opportunities outside of academe and thus tend to “bid up” their academic salaries. Even so, Calvin’s pay structure provides an important distribution of quality across departments, as salary monies are spread across departments and are not concentrated on securing talented faculty in only a few such departments. And the fact that so many new appointments have been made at the associate or full professor rank further reflects the depth of commitment of these newly recruited faculty to the mission of Calvin College.
Indeed, Calvin’s faculty hiring process targets depth of commitment as well as scholarly talent. 7 In addition to a review of the candidates’ research and teaching record, discussion of the way in which candidates integrate faith and learning in research and teaching constitutes a crucial part of the interview process for prospective faculty members. New faculty members write initial statements on the integration of faith and learning—statements that are developed and honed in several stages as faculty members pass through the process of reappointment. A finished essay on the topic forms part of each faculty member’s dossier for tenure review. In their scholarship and teaching, Calvin faculty members are expected to work from a Christian perspective and articulate a Christian voice in ways appropriate to their disciplines.8
Institutional Support for Scholarship
Research stimulates institutional improvement and furthers the mission of the college to be an agent for renewal in the world. The college’s chartering documents and policies, as well as its financial allocations, demonstrate that inquiry and creativity are valued—but not only for their own sake. Research and scholarship are central to what it means to be a faculty member because faculty members are the senior members, the exemplars, in a community of learning. Calvin College supports scholarship by protecting its members’ freedom and obligation to engage in truth-seeking inquiry, by embracing a broad and varied understanding of scholarship, and by devoting considerable attention and funding to scholarly tasks.
Academic Freedom at Calvin
The protection of academic freedom is vital to the survival of the Christian community of learning of which the college faculty is the center. Calvin College believes that religious communities should be free to work from a distinctively religious perspective, to work from a starting point of commonly held religious presuppositions. Hence, according to the Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College ( ESM) and the Handbook for Teaching Faculty, academic freedom at Calvin is framed by commitments that flow from each faculty person’s membership in the Calvin community. These prior commitments are essentially three: the confessional standards of the college, the professional standards of the scholarly discipline, and the public standards of keeping the classroom free from partisan political propaganda unrelated to a scholar’s discipline or teaching subject.9 Faculty members at Calvin submit to the limitations on academic freedom implied by their acceptance of the confessional standards of the college because their commitment to these standards forms the foundation and motivation for their scholarship and teaching. Their shared religious convictions are also common intellectual convictions about what is true. Their consensus becomes a positive asset for the Calvin faculty; it forms a community of scholars and teachers engaged with each other and with students in the pursuit of truth.10
This is a more generous notion of academic freedom than exists at many private, church-related colleges. At the same time, the practice of academic freedom at Calvin is not without occasional strains. These strains typically occur when academic investigation and comment bear on controversial issues under discussion in the broader communities serving and served by the college—the church, parents, alumni, and other constituencies. At the time of Calvin’s 1994 self-study, these issues included the role of women in the church (specifically, their suitability for holding church office), the place of scientific theorizing in church life, and the meaning for readers of the Scriptures of the evidence for a very old earth and the theory of evolution. Topics of concern in 2004 include these, as well as homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, capitalism, and the outlook and methods associated with postmodernism. Structures of due process protect faculty members from alleged violations of confessional or professional standards and ensure that in the event of challenges to this right, the college is committed to the implementation of Christian principles of justice and charity in its community.11
At Calvin commitment to academic freedom for Christian scholars is rooted in Abraham Kuyper’s insistence that the academy and the church constitute different spheres of human endeavor. Calvin College is the college of the CRC, but the college is not a church. As Anthony Diekema, president emeritus, put it, the college and the church “keep faith with each other by sharing a belief system and maintaining trust.” The “church and its worldview deserve a distinctive place in the intellectual conversation of the campus.”12 The college, in its mission statements, affirms its close relationship with the church; the church, in its synodical documents, supports the academic and intellectual mission of the college. Faculty members at Calvin take seriously the right and the responsibility to assess and critique the views of the church. There is very wide appreciation, moreover, for the enrichment of community and church life that results from careful protection of the principles of free inquiry at the college.13 Ambiguity arises, however, with regard to the extent to which specific church statements, such as acts of the denominational synod, are binding on faculty members at the college.
It is very likely that there will be social, ethical, and religious issues that challenge the college in the next decade. It is important to recall that in well-publicized cases in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the structures of due process at the college were found adequate, and the academic freedom of Calvin faculty members was vindicated.14
The Nature of Scholarship at Calvin
At Calvin there is a strong tradition of encouraging scholarship while resisting the impulse to define it narrowly and quantify expectations. Scholarly production is treated as one of the four areas of responsibility specifically assigned to the faculty, along with teaching, advising, and service. Scholarship is viewed as a necessity, vital to successful teaching, to the maintenance of the community of learning that is the college, and to the formation and guidance of Christian witness in the world.15 Hence the ESM and the Handbook for Teaching Faculty set out several purposes of Christian scholarship and differentiate types of scholarship and cultural creativity. Defining a plan for research and scholarship forms part of the self-evaluation and planning required of all faculty members as part of reappointment, tenure, and post-tenure reviews.16 Guidelines for planning scholarship and research avoid specifying the amount of scholarship that is expected from faculty members; rather, the guidelines refer faculty to departmental standards for scholarship to flesh out expectations in the various disciplines. Academic departments at Calvin drew up statements on expectations for research and scholarship that were reviewed and approved by the Faculty Development Committee and the Professional Status Committee in 1998. These norms are shared with new faculty members and are used as a tool for ongoing professional development.17
While all faculty members at Calvin are called to be scholars, not all express this commitment in the same form. The college’s mission documents recognize personal, applied, and advanced scholarship. Personal scholarship means linking current debates in one’s chosen field to issues in the world in creative and challenging ways. This kind of research is essential to vibrant teaching and is thus expected of all faculty. Applied scholarship means communicating the reflection on one’s chosen field in a domain outside the professional academy, through consulting, counseling, advising, or public speaking. At Calvin an important audience for applied research is the CRC, whose denominational headquarters are located in Grand Rapids. The many agencies and offices of the church benefit directly from the expertise of Calvin faculty members, and the dozens of CRC congregations in the Grand Rapids area regularly call on Calvin faculty members as speakers and consultants. Advanced scholarship is the creation and interpretation of knowledge in one’s chosen field, and the creation or performance of works of art. Many Calvin faculty have achieved national prominence in their chosen scholarly disciplines through presentations at professional conferences and symposia; through the publication of books, monographs, and journal articles; and through exhibitions and performances.18
The ESM describes the purposes of scholarship at Calvin: to conserve, that is, to promote understanding of the Christian tradition; to transform, by “establishing Christian criteria for knowledge or for its application,” especially by critically challenging the prevailing wisdom in the academic disciplines; and to enrich, meaning to bring the “insights or methods of the arts and sciences to bear on Christian thought and the understanding of creation and culture,… [to] enhance appreciation for God’s creation and human experience [and] expand the fund of human knowledge and wisdom.”19 Each of these forms of scholarship is prized at the college.
Internal Funding of Scholarship
Since its establishment in 1997 the position of dean for research and scholarship has served to coordinate internal college funding of faculty and student research activities, disseminate information about and act as a clearinghouse for opportunities for external funding, and promote and celebrate the results of scholarly research on campus. This dean works closely with the Development Office’s director of grants and foundation relations.
Calvin offers two major and several smaller sources of internal funding for faculty research. The first is through the annual budget for the sabbatical program and for Calvin Research Fellowships ( CRFs). Faculty members are eligible to apply for a sabbatical leave after their sixth year of service. Successful applications are funded at 100 percent for one semester and the January Interim, and at 50 percent for a full year. Faculty members are required to report on their sabbatical activities, present their findings in a public forum as appropriate, and continue in their positions for one year for each semester of paid leave.20 CRFs are awards for reduction of teaching loads during the academic year in order to help faculty pursue projects of individual scholarship and to aid them in their ongoing independent research. Faculty members on tenure-track appointments with a record of excellent teaching and scholarship are eligible to apply. The funding that supports the sabbatical program and academic-year CRFs (which are semester course reductions) as well as summer salary stipends has grown from $574,955 in the 1994-1995 academic year to $1,060,000 in 2003-2004 (Table 5.2). Note that unlike some institutions, Calvin has no annual limit on sabbaticals. About 75 percent of faculty members take sabbaticals within two years of eligibility. A separate fund is available for summer CRF research stipends. The college’s goal is to have a budget that will support the equivalent of a baseline of 25 sabbaticals and 40 CRF units annually.21
Table 5.2 Funding of Sabbaticals and Calvin Research Fellowships
* Note: These funding data reflect the actual money spent, not the money initially budgeted for the number of awards granted.
The second major source of internal funding for faculty scholarship is the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship (CCCS). The oldest of the five research centers at Calvin, CCCS was founded in 1976 to enable committed Christian thinkers to reflect upon pressing issues of public concern across the academic disciplines. By means of proceeds from an endowment, CCCS funds rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship of a distinctively Christian nature on important theoretical or practical issues. For such projects a principal investigator, who is a Calvin faculty member, brings together Christian scholars from several institutions to work on a project. CCCS also funds reading groups that think together about issues of common concern and develop a shared body of Christian insight. As Table 5.3 shows, CCCS’s grant-making capacity is endowment driven and tends to rise and fall with annual returns.
Table 5.3 CCCS Funding, 1995-2004
In addition to these major sources, faculty members have access to several smaller funds for research support:
The college also maintains a program begun in 1991 with a matching grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to support summer fellowships for students assisting science professors with research projects. This program is now sponsoring 17 fellowships each summer.
The college’s McGregor Summer Research Fellowship Program funds ten collaborative student-faculty research projects in the humanities and social sciences each summer. This program, along with the many opportunities provided by Science Division grants that fund student researchers, is one important way for Calvin to leverage its support for faculty scholarship. By having students do some of the basic research, the college not only helps students develop their scholarly capacities but also increases support for faculty scholarship.
In keeping with Calvin’s recognition that research and scholarship include many forms, the college supports various expressions of the faculty’s research involvement. The college’s program of support for faculty travel to attend professional meetings and conferences is unusual in that faculty members need not necessarily be presenting papers at these meetings. The level of funding is currently $700 per faculty member per year, administered through departments. Since this amount is often insufficient to cover the expenses of attending a scholarly conference, however, increasing this budget is a funding priority in the Provost’s Office. The intention is to raise this by $100 per faculty member in each of the next three years, until the figure reaches $1,000 per faculty member. In addition to these monies administered through departments, the Provost’s Office has created a supplemental travel fund of $21,000. It is often used by faculty members who are presenting their research at international conferences. This is part of a significant investment to encourage faculty to expand their global experience.
The college has a history of encouraging and supporting faculty members who become editors of journals in their disciplines. This support comes in the form of reductions in teaching loads and in administrative and clerical assistance, paid out of an endowment fund administered by the Provost’s Office. For example, Roy Anker (English) received a course release for four years while he edited Perspectives; Johnathan Bascom (geography) received a course release for three years while he edited the African Geographical Review; Jennifer Holberg (English) received start-up support for Pedagogy, a journal published by Duke University Press; Douglas Howard (history) received a course release and administrative and secretarial assistance for five years while he was editor of the Turkish Studies Association Bulletin; Ronald Wells (history) and Frank Roberts (history) received a course release and secretarial assistance while editing Fides et Historia.
Table 5.4 Calvin Faculty Editorial Involvement in National Professional Journals over the Last Ten Years
Another form of institutional support for research and scholarship can be seen in the opportunities for professional development offered at Calvin. During the academic year, these professional development programs include a series of “teaching and learning lunches.” Summer programs include faculty development workshops. In 2004 workshops included “Developing a Five-Year Plan for Scholarship” and “Grant Writing.”23 The Faculty Summer Seminars in Christian Scholarship began in 1996 with a $1 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts. This national program, now with varied funding sources, conducts five to seven multi-week topical research or reading seminars each summer. These are offered to scholars from Calvin and beyond.
The academic year 2002-2003 was a prolific one for grant writing by Calvin faculty and staff members, who submitted a college-record 66 proposals for external funding, totaling $6.5 million. This work resulted in the funding of 41 new awards, totaling $3.4 million. The college’s success, especially with governmental funding sources, demonstrates Calvin’s growing national reputation as well as the competitiveness of its faculty’s research and scholarship. As Calvin has moved more deliberately to seek federal funding, it has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities ( NEH), National Science Foundation ( NSF), National Institutes of Health ( NIH), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ( HUD), and U.S. Department of Education, as well as from state agencies and private foundations.
In the humanities several examples of recent successes in attracting governmental funding include:
In the natural sciences Calvin has received 21 NSF grants since 1998 for research, equipment, and programming, totaling $1.44 million.24 Stan Haan (physics) has received continuous funding from NSF for his research over the past 20 years. A recent NSF grant is the largest one Calvin has ever received from NSF—biologist David DeHeer’s award of $224,934 for the acquisition of a flow cytometer, an instrument for biomedical research that one rarely finds on an undergraduate campus. 25 Science faculty use such instrumentation for their own research, and students are also given hands-on experience with this advanced equipment. In the last five years Calvin has received four of these NSF Major Research Instrumentation awards: one in chemistry, one in computer science, and two in biology.
Three recent grants have come from NIH:
In the area of international study three Calvin faculty members have won recent Fulbright Awards, including David Van Baak (Ireland, 1999), Joel Adams (Mauritius in 2002 and Iceland in 2004), and Johnathan Bascom (Eritrea, 2004).
Calvin is also applying successfully for U.S. Department of Education grants. In 1999 Steve VanderLeest secured a grant of $314,000 from the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education for implementing the Research and Information Technology ( RIT) component of Calvin’s core curriculum. In 2004 Randal Jelks received a grant of $144,000 to develop curriculum and programming as part of a new minor in African and African Diaspora studies.
The college is also beginning to secure state funding, most often for programming:
In addition to these governmental sources, Calvin regularly receives major grants for research and programming from foundations.26 These include:
This success is partly due to the increased role of Calvin’s Office of Research and Scholarship, which helps members of the Calvin College community secure external funding from foundations, corporations, governmental agencies, and individuals. Under the auspices of both the Provost’s Office and the Development Office, the Office of Research and Scholarship works to obtain funding for college-wide initiatives as well as for faculty research and development programs. Calvin is also a member of the Washington, D.C.–based Independent Colleges Office (ICO), a group that helps negotiate grant opportunities for independent colleges. ICO director Jeanne Narum has visited Calvin’s campus to provide workshops about grant opportunities and grant-writing processes. Working with Calvin’s director of foundation relations, Lois Konyndyk, Narum has contributed to the overall grants knowledge of the college and has helped Calvin position itself for future grant-seeking as an independent college.
The Office of Research and Scholarship provides a range of services for grant proposal writers. These include research services; a Web site that contains links to possible funding sources; reminders of reporting requirements; editing and composition assistance for the final draft, as well as assistance in drawing up the budget and writing cover letters as needed; and recognition in the Board of Trustees report and on the college’s Web site. With Calvin’s increased success in securing grants from federal, corporate, and private foundation sources, the Office of Grants and Foundation Relations has added a second proposal writer to capitalize on these funding opportunities.
With this robust institutional support, the faculty of Calvin College is hard-working and intellectually active. The 2001-2002 survey of Calvin faculty done by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) found that, as measured by the number of publications (books, chapters of books, and articles), Calvin faculty were extremely productive, far more so than their peers at comparable American institutions. As can been seen from Table 5.5 below, 77 percent of Calvin faculty had been published in the two years prior to the survey, compared with 54 percent of faculty at all private, four-year colleges and universities and 48 percent of faculty at Protestant four-year institutions. The survey also found that 85 percent of Calvin faculty have published articles in scholarly journals; 53 percent have published chapters in edited volumes; and 53 percent have published a book, monograph, manual, or the like.27
Table 5.5 Comparison of Scholarly Activities of Calvin Faculty with Faculty at Other Institutions
Source: 2001-2002 Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) survey
This research activity receives public recognition as well, on campus and beyond. Seldom does a week pass at Calvin without multiple public presentations of scholarly work. Many departments have a regular colloquium or seminar series in which faculty members present the results of their research. One such seminar series of note is the interdisciplinary Christian Perspectives on Science seminar, which meets monthly throughout the school year. The Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship and many academic departments also hold public gatherings to fete the publication of major books by faculty members. Departments also host colloquia for presentations, and through the medium of Calvin News, the campus e-mail distribution list, these become campus-wide events to which all faculty and staff are invited.28
The results of this scholarship also reach the wider public through two principal media. First, Calvin has an excellent relationship with the local and national media news, through Phil deHaan, director of media relations. The Office of Media Relations maintains a guide designed to help the working press connect with Calvin experts who may be able to serve as resources for stories.29 As a result, Calvin faculty have been quoted in the Detroit News, Newsweek, Christianity Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Boston Globe, and have been interviewed on affiliates of National Public Radio, PBS, and commercial networks.30 Second, Calvin’s quarterly alumni association magazine, The Calvin Spark, gives Calvin faculty members and their research extensive coverage and presents a balanced view of their work. The mission statement of the magazine notes that, besides communicating news about Calvin initiatives, it aims to “be a continuing education source to readers, reflecting a distinctive Reformed perspective,” and to “draw an increasingly wider national audience to Calvin as a center of Christian thought.”31 Inner Compass, a Calvin-produced television talk show on the local PBS affiliate, explores how people make decisions about ethical, religious, and social justice issues. Guests include visiting scholars, authors, activists, religious leaders, and politicians from around the world, as well as active members of the local community. It is seen throughout West Michigan on Tuesday evenings at 6:00 p.m., a prime news hour.32
Another means of recognizing and rewarding research and scholarship is the annual Calvin Worldview Lectureship. Jointly sponsored by the college and the Campus Ministry Department of the CRC’s Board of Home Missions, the lectureship is intended to communicate a Reformed Christian perspective on a crucial issue in an academic discipline or in the culture at large. Each year one member of the Calvin faculty is selected as the Calvin Lecturer. The lecturer is chosen by a committee, and nominations are solicited. During the academic year, the Calvin Lecturer receives a one-course reduction each semester and also is freed from normal January Interim teaching duties. The lecturer prepares and gives public lectures and seminars for campus ministers at approximately six universities in North America and at two or three universities abroad. The lectures are then developed into a short book and published in a series, currently under contract with InterVarsity Press.
Table 5.6 The Calvin Lectureship
Ample evidence thus shows that Calvin is not content to rest on its scholarly laurels and that members of Calvin’s current faculty do not merely live in the shadow of the past but actively work to carry on the legacy of scholarly achievement established by earlier generations. It is not difficult to find current Calvin faculty who are winning national recognition. In 2002 the inaugural Steinbeck Short Story Award was bestowed on “Summer’s Heat,” a story by English professor and Steinbeck scholar John H. Timmerman. That same year, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers named engineering professor Paulo Ribeiro as a fellow. In 2003 communication arts and sciences professor Garth Pauley won the Karl R. Wallace Memorial Award in communication studies for his work in recovering the forgotten civil rights speeches of the 1963 March on Washington.
Calvin faculty members have been founders of and leaders in national organizations that develop Christian perspectives within the academic disciplines.33 For example, in 1991 Calvin political science faculty members were instrumental in founding Christians in Political Science, an affiliated organization of the American Political Science Association, and the Calvin foreign languages departments were involved in founding the North American Christian Foreign Language Association. Likewise, Calvin faculty have helped to sustain such organizations by holding office,34 hosting conferences,35 and presenting papers.
Calvin is home to six research institutes and centers. The past decade has been a period of significant growth, reorganization, and reorientation toward collaborative faculty-student research.
In addition to hosting a variety of topical and regional discipline-specific conferences, Calvin is also home to several major conferences:
Thousands of participants come to Calvin’s campus each year to benefit from renowned work in faith-engaged scholarly and artistic fields. As a result, faculty members have opportunities to present their work, confer with others with common interests, and receive encouragement from the exemplary scholarship and artistry they encounter. Students likewise gain inspiration and encouragement, and through encounters with authors and scholars in special sessions, they participate in literary discourse not possible through classroom work alone. Construction of the Prince Conference Center to serve Calvin’s many and varied conferencing needs makes it possible to attract even more scholarly attention and strengthen the college’s position as a convening center for Christian scholarship.
The Center Art Gallery, which was founded in 1974 with the opening of the Spoelhof Center, likewise serves the college’s mission to promote Christian scholarship and artistry among faculty and students and to cultivate lifelong patterns of learning. The gallery is the conservator of the college’s 1,200-piece art collection, dating from 1600 to the present, and it is the home display center for student and faculty artists, each group of which sponsors an annual exhibition. Under the leadership of director Joel Zwart, the gallery hosts special programs devised by students and faculty as well. It also features the work of artists of note from the region and beyond. With funding from its own modest exhibitions budget and grants from local organizations, the gallery hosts two or three traveling exhibitions each year.42
Professional development for administrative staff has lagged somewhat behind what is available for faculty, but there are a number of opportunities to grow and learn. Perhaps the most central opportunity for learning and self-improvement offered to Calvin employees is the opportunity to take courses for free—two per year, in fact, for Calvin employees, and one per year for each employee’s spouse. A variety of safety and orientation training seminars (materials handling, sexual harassment, safe driving, etc.) also occur regularly, both for new employees and as refreshers for those who have been here for some time. Every summer, Calvin Information Technology ( CIT) provides a variety of courses to train staff and faculty to use new software systems. One recently established staff development program has been a seminar for new employees. Included in the seminar are sessions devoted to understanding the Christian educational mission of the college.
There are also a number of positions on campus that have specific developmental features built into them. Residence hall directors, for example, are given funds for conference attendance and are eligible for reimbursement of 50 percent of their tuition toward advanced degrees, or simply for classes related to their job. Most of the Student Life Division’s employees have the option of attending the annual conference of the Association of Christians in Student Development. Although there is no standard policy or expectation, many holding professional-grade (exempt) positions in administrative offices are afforded opportunities to attend annual meetings of associations in their respective professional fields. One of the more salient findings for Calvin from its participation in the 2002 survey, “Best Christian Places to Work,” was that administrative staff do not find that the college meets their expectations about professional development. The newly installed director of human resources, Todd Hubers, has indicated that staff development will be one of his top priorities.
Scholarship and General Education: Preparation for Life
Commitment to General Education
In a time at when the increasingly narrow specialization of higher education is a matter of national debate, Calvin College maintains a commitment to a broad, liberal arts education. All faculty, both newly hired assistant professors and veteran full professors, academic stars and toilers in the vineyards, teach core courses. Calvin uses comparatively few part-time instructors, almost no grading assistants, and teaching assistants only in laboratories. The core curriculum is large, and the revision of the core curriculum done in the late 1990s did not reduce it. Core requirements frequently consume 65 hours out of a total graduation requirement of 124 hours (52.4 percent).43
Content of the Core Curriculum
Calvin’s core curriculum requires that students take courses in each of 19 categories. Each category addresses a certain group of objectives and allows for objectives to be addressed and the category fulfilled by a choice of courses in several disciplines. These categories are organized in four broad groups, which roughly represent stages in a student’s progression through Calvin College.
This core curriculum is a capacious one, no smaller in size than the one it replaced. The task force that designed it decided early on that the initial goal of creating a smaller core curriculum would not be met. Their initial thinking about reducing the size of the core changed when they learned from recent enrollment patterns that students were not likely to take advantage of a smaller core by broadening their education with free electives; rather, it was more likely that they would take additional courses in their major or add another major or minor. By keeping the core large but offering some choice of courses within the core categories, the college reinforced its support for a broad education by means of these “guided electives.” Thus Calvin College keeps faith with its mission to provide students with a Christian liberal arts education for lives of service. It balances depth and competence in a chosen field with context and perspective from an array of studies that range as broadly as God’s care.
The outlook, objectives, and theme of the general education requirements are meant to carry over into all major programs, an aim that is written into the current strategic plan. This integration is built into the new core curriculum through its requirement of a senior-level capstone course in a core category called Integrative Studies. The core curriculum document describes this as “a category covering upper-level courses that seek to draw students into critical reflection upon the deepest assumptions, commitments, and issues in some domain of human inquiry, belief, or practice.”45 These capstone courses revisit major themes of the core curriculum and the mission of the college, but they are located in the academic disciplines. Most academic departments have created capstone courses within their majors. Beyond these formal tie-ins to the core curriculum, the various departments are taking care to rearticulate their purposes as they update their majors. They are finding ways to articulate the charter-forming virtues of the studies they offer, in echo of the core curriculum.46
As noted in chapter four, assessment data substantially motivated the revision of Calvin’s core curriculum, and the college has developed an assessment plan for the new core curriculum. 47 Data from the first graduating class that has completed the new core curriculum will be available in 2005.
Graduate Education at Calvin
Calvin College has offered postgraduate programs in teacher education at the graduate level since the mid-1960s. In November 1983, in anticipation of a growing engagement in postgraduate studies, the faculty approved a governance structure for graduate studies that assigned oversight of the master of arts in teaching program to the Graduate Studies Committee and a director of graduate studies. The college later issued a comprehensive report on the principles and prospects for graduate education at Calvin College— Graduate Education: A Report on Advanced Degrees and Scholarship—which was approved by the faculty in 1989. By the late 1990s, however, an earlier attempt at offering a graduate liberal arts degree, a master of arts in Christian studies, had ceased, and the master of arts in teaching degree had been transformed into a more professionally focused master of education ( M.Ed.) degree. The strategic plan of 1997 called for strengthening the M.Ed. program and investing scholarly energy in faculty research and focused research institutes rather than in additional postgraduate degree programs.
In order to strengthen and deepen the M.Ed. program, its three degree areas were reduced to two, so that currently Calvin offers M.Ed. degrees in the areas of learning disabilities and curriculum and instruction. In addition to taking courses in these specialty areas, all students in the graduate program take a shared “core” that includes courses in advanced educational psychology, advanced education foundations, and research methodology, as well as an integrative seminar that includes a final research project. Calvin currently has 65 students in its master’s degree program. The college also offers post-baccalaureate endorsement programs in learning disabilities, cognitive impairment, early childhood education, bilingual education, and English as a second language for certified teachers who do not wish to pursue a graduate degree. Calvin currently serves 35 students in these programs. Additional postgraduate offerings in education at Calvin include credit-bearing week-long summer workshops on a variety of topics, and a leadership development institute, which Calvin offers in cooperation with Christian Schools International.48
In recent years the college has developed a more focused system of review and oversight for the M.Ed. program, in compliance with NCATE ( National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) standards, which require cohesion of the teacher education program at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and a program “head” who provides oversight for the whole program. In 2002 the Committee on Governance approved a new structure that placed both undergraduate and graduate programs under the direction of the Teacher Education Committee.49
The graduate teacher education programs are evaluated regularly as part of an extensive, performance- based assessment system.50 Assessment data—including exit surveys of candidates, focus group data from administrators, GPA statistics, and performance on final research projects—have been used to evaluate and make changes in the program.51 The Graduate Program Development Committee is currently evaluating the structure and content of the program in relation to the needs of a national and international teacher education audience and is exploring models of combined distance education and face-to-face learning to best meet the needs of this audience.
Co-curriculum and General Education
One area noted by the 1994 accreditation review team—the links between the general education curriculum and the co-curriculum at Calvin—has been improved through several means. One is the Prelude program, a one-credit-hour segment of the new core curriculum administered and taught to first-year students by the staff of the Student Life Division. The content of the course introduces students to the broad mission of the college and is directly connected to the themes of the first-year January Interim course, Developing a Christian Mind.
The Student Life Division has created additional partnerships with academic departments through the Student Activities Office, Broene Counseling Center, and Career Development Office. The Student Activities Office has worked with the Music, English, and Communication Arts and Sciences departments on a new biennial event, the Festival of Faith and Music, to bring some analytical focus to its outstanding concert series, which has featured performers as diverse as Joan Baez, Ben Harper, Steve Earle, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Dave Matthews, and the Blind Boys of Alabama. Staff members from the Broene Counseling Center and the Career Development Office make classroom presentations concerning aspects of their work, and two counselors of the Broene Counseling Center carry regular teaching loads in the Psychology Department.
The Student Life Division also has developed some important support procedures with faculty, including attendance checks for first-year students who may be at risk for dropping out, “background checks” of disciplinary records before students enroll in off-campus programs, assistance in the training of faculty members taking student groups abroad, and faculty development and support for addressing academic dishonesty.
Before becoming involved in the core curriculum, the Student Life Division engaged in another significant curricular initiative, the Academically Based Service-Learning (ABSL) Program. Today, the majority of Calvin students engage in service-learning in connection with course work. Faculty members in almost every department of the college integrate external community engagement and service into the content of their courses, providing a connection between theory and practice. For example, beginning chemistry students learn laboratory analysis by gathering and testing soil, air, and water samples for the Calvin Environmental Assessment Program. Accounting students help inner-city merchants set up bookkeeping systems. Students in Written Rhetoric interview World War II veterans and record their life stories for a National Archives project. By incorporating important service experiences into course work, faculty and students seek to understand how they can better serve God in their chosen professions.52 The community relations enabled by ABSL will be further discussed in chapter six.
Many opportunities exist for students who want to develop their leadership skills. They receive broad exposure to issues and ideas through the programs of the Office of Residence Life. Resident assistants provide guidance and accountability in the residence halls, while the halls’ elected officers manage the social and service initiatives of the residents. Student leaders coordinate much of the work of the Service-Learning Center. Through the Jubilee Fellows Program, funded by the Lilly Vocation Project grant, junior students participate in an academic seminar, led by the college chaplain, that focuses on Christian ministry. After completing the seminar, students spend the summer interning at churches across the country. Then, during their senior year, they participate in a group retreat, mentor junior students, and write papers on their experiences. Two-thirds of these students enroll in seminary programs.53 For many years now, a select number of Calvin students have participated in a summer program of service and leadership development at Colorado’s Snow Mountain Ranch, a YMCA family facility.
Calvin’s student-run organizations also provide opportunities for students to shape and frame their own learning, recreation, and service, and to hold each other accountable. This whole sector of the Student Life Division is headed by Student Senate, an elected body that approves charters and officers, apportions funding, and receives financial and programmatic reports from the more than 60 student organizations, including Chimes, the college’s venerable weekly newspaper; the Hockey Club, 2004 national club hockey champs; the Fish House Café, a jazz and poetry coffee bar; and the Linux Users Club.54
Other leadership opportunities for students include the Worship Apprentice Program and the Barnabas Team. These allow students to develop leadership skills related to worship and spiritual formation. The Worship Apprentice Program is integrated with the college’s daily chapel services and Sunday evening worship program. Worship apprentices receive two weeks of intensive training in late August before the school year begins and meet weekly with worship staff to receive ongoing mentoring. The Barnabas Team, which works on spiritual formation in the residence halls, also is directed out of the Chaplain’s Office. This team receives intensive training prior to the start of the academic year, and each student is given formal feedback and evaluation sessions at the end of the first semester.55
Several living-learning communities further the aim of fostering lifelong habits of engaged learning by offering academic credit for an action-and-reflection model of service-learning based in residential settings. One example is the Mosaic Community, which began in the fall of 1996 as a grant-funded project to increase the retention rates of certain ethnic minority students. Students who reside in this on-campus multicultural living community on one floor of a residence hall receive one academic credit for participating in a variety of living-learning activities. Students from many countries, cultures, races, and backgrounds live in the Mosaic Community. About one-third are international students, one-third are North American minorities, and one-third are Caucasian students from a variety of backgrounds.56
Another such opportunity is Project Neighborhood, intentional Christian residential communities within urban neighborhoods. Three large houses in different inner-city locations in Grand Rapids form Project Neighborhood. Participants are committed to personal spiritual growth, structured time together as house residents, and service to the neighborhood and community. Students receive guidance from community leaders, college representatives, and in-house mentors while gaining academic credit for their work.57
The Spanish House—actually, several apartments in the college’s Knollcrest East complex— gives Spanish-language students the opportunity to live with native speakers. They develop their language skills while gaining experience living and learning with students from Latin America and Spain.58
Relevant Scholarship and Teaching: Curricular Renewal
Faculty scholarship and research are often thought to be separate from and in tension with the obligations of teaching, but the two can complement and inform each other. Faculty members at Calvin College aspire to be “scholar-teachers.” During the last decade academic departments at Calvin have been active participants in the extraordinary changes in teaching and learning at the college, by which curricula are becoming internationalized, inquiry-based learning is reshaping syllabi, and student-faculty research is a growing feature of undergraduate education. Such work challenges the assumptions, popular in public discussions of higher education, that faculty are self-focused and that either teaching or research advances only by diminishing the other. Rather, teaching can inform scholarship, with scholarship in turn informing teaching, in a mutually reinforcing dialectic.59 This exchange needs continual maintenance, however, since not all forms of either activity are equally amenable to mutuality.
Two trends in Calvin’s engagement with teaching have supported the complementarity of teaching and scholarship: an international broadening of the curriculum and a movement to review and reform the curriculum and modes of learning.
Internationalization of the Curriculum
One of the most significant developments at Calvin since the 1994 accreditation review is the internationalization of the curriculum. The college has been expanding its off-campus programs and globalizing its curriculum. These changes have been propelled by several interests:
At the time of the 1994 self-study and site visit, Calvin College offered three semester abroad programs: one in Spain, one in Great Britain, and one in Hungary. Additionally, several hundred Calvin students were participating in Calvin January Interim courses taught off-campus, and in several Calvin-endorsed semester-abroad programs run by partner institutions such as the Christian College Coalition (now the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities). In that academic year, 1994-1995, a total of 428 Calvin students studied abroad.61 Today, the picture looks considerably different: in addition to the endorsed programs run by outside agencies and the Calvin courses taught off-campus during the January Interim, Calvin now administers ten semester abroad programs. These are in Hungary, China, Ghana, France, Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Honduras (which has two programs—one in Spanish and one in development studies), Spain, and Britain. In 2003-2004, 760 Calvin students studied off-campus, 78 percent more than the figure of ten years ago. The most recent survey data suggest that more than half of Calvin graduates now study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years.62 Out of the 775 students who went through Senior Salute in May 2003, 465 completed an off-campus programs survey. Of these students, 38.5 percent had studied on a semester program, while 55 percent had completed at least one off-campus experience, either during a semester or during the January Interim. This high level of student participation in off-campus studies ranks Calvin fifth in the nation among master’s degree–granting institutions.63
Figure 5.1 Students Who Study Off Campus
The numbers tell only part of the story. These programs are driven by the Calvin mission, and they utilize personal and institutional connections that grow out of Calvin’s institutional identity. Students on the Semester in Britain program live and study at Oakhill College, an Anglican evangelical theological seminary in London. The Semester in Hungary program works closely with the pastors and officials of the Hungarian Reformed Church, and is affiliated with Károli Gáspár Reformed University in Budapest. Programs in Honduras and China have on-site directors seconded to Calvin faculty by the CRC’s world relief and world missions agencies. Several of the programs integrate with language and area studies concentrations in the Calvin curriculum, including the programs in China, Ghana, Spain, Honduras, and France. Each of these programs has a cooperative relationship with a host university or college that allows for cross-registration of students.
The college commits significant resources to these programs. Unlike semester abroad programs offered by other colleges and universities, regular Calvin faculty members personally direct and teach in all but two of the semester programs noted above. These professors and their families relocate to the site abroad for the semester, at college expense. The college’s Off-Campus Programs Office has grown from one part-time coordinator in 1997 to a full-time director with a full-time administrative assistant today.
These programs pay long-term dividends for the college in other ways. For example, the close institutional relationship between Calvin’s Semester in Hungary Program and the Reformed University has resulted in an exchange arrangement whereby one Hungarian student of the Reformed University receives a scholarship to spend the academic year studying at Calvin. In each site where Calvin has a program, opportunities for student or faculty exchanges have arisen. In Hungary, local Reformed churches also host a biennial tour of the Calvin College Band.
Globalizing the Curriculum
Three new elements of the core studies program illustrate the progressive globalization of the Calvin curriculum. One is that in the required course, History of the West and the World, students learn about “the development of Western civilization within a global context.”64 The guidelines for the course specify that students will read primary texts from both Western and non-Western traditions, will consider issues concerning gender and the status of women in history, and will examine various worldviews. Topics covered include the development of major world religions and the evolution of societies around the world.65
In the core category Global and Historical Studies, students select courses in non-Western history or culture to address issues of global diversity and interdependence, to deepen their “awareness and understanding of the larger global and historical contexts of North American life,” and to better understand “temporally and culturally distant vantage points from which to assess the contemporary world and their own lives.”66
A third core element that illustrates efforts to increase awareness of the global character of contemporary life is the cross-cultural engagement (CCE) requirement. The objectives of the requirement are that students will accomplish the following:
Students fulfill this requirement either by taking a course that is designated as a CCE course (this includes most off-campus semester programs, many off-campus January Interim courses, and regular courses that have an integral or an optional CCE component), or by initiating an independent study in which they become engaged in a cross-cultural experience (a foreign travel experience, a service-learning project, participation in a cross-cultural living-learning experience, or the like).68 CCE is overseen by a director and a faculty committee, the Cross-Cultural Engagement Coordinating Committee.
In many other ways Calvin’s campus is becoming transformed to reflect the realities of a global age. The foreign language core requirement holds firm; students may fulfill this requirement by taking Japanese or Chinese, in addition to six ancient or modern European languages. Calvin is a charter member of the SCOLA Project, which delivers foreign-language television programming from around the world directly to students and faculty. The Off-Campus Programs Expo each semester feeds students’ awareness of the global nature of Calvin’s programs. Faculty members have expanded opportunities to study and teach abroad, not only through the off-campus programs described above, but also via partnerships with foreign universities. Over the past five years Calvin faculty have taught at more than a dozen foreign universities, ranging across Africa, East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America, as well as in Western and Eastern Europe.69 And last but not least, the number of Calvin students coming from the global South and East has doubled over the past decade. This explosion of cross-cultural interest and engagement is one of the most striking developments at Calvin over the past decade. One of the ensuing challenges it faces is how to convince inquirers that this small Midwestern college is actually a gateway to the world.
Depending on how one does the calculation, some 90 concentrations are offered in Calvin’s 26 academic departments. Review and revision of these major and minor programs constitute a continual process, the ongoing work of the Educational Policy Committee (EPC).
Program Assessment and Curricular Change
In the years since Calvin’s last NCA site visit, several dozen departmental curricular review and redesign efforts have been approved by EPC, ranging from comparatively minor streamlining of aspects of departmental curricula to substantial overhauls of major programs. Curricular revision proposals approved in the mid-1990s, before EPC established strengthened requirements, typically referred only vaguely to assessment criteria, asserting or reporting anecdotal evidence of student interest. Since about 2000, however, proposals for curricular revision have been based more frequently on assessment data. The Nursing Department’s initial curricular proposal included a “Blueprint for Evaluation,” used test performance results to support the strengthening of requirements in the area of nutrition, and employed an e-mail survey of 67 randomly selected college and university programs to argue for a reduction in the chemistry requirement for prenursing students.70 The Psychology Department’s proposal to increase its research requirement was supported by data from both objective measures and alumni questionnaires; the History Department’s substantial curricular revision was based on weaknesses identified in a wide-ranging alumni survey; the Art Department’s curricular revision was based on the results of alumni survey data as well as the realignment of the department’s programs with the mission of the college and the new core curriculum. The Communication Arts and Sciences Department based revisions of its course offerings in film studies on results of an alumni survey and feedback from current students.71
Not all proposals for curricular change have been as thorough in their use of assessment data as those cited above, yet recent revisions consistently refer to the need to assess student learning as a means of guiding curricular and program development. The Religion Department’s revision of its general major was prompted by the creation of a new departmental assessment plan. Writing a mission statement led the Sociology and Social Work Department to propose changes to its major; the specifics were informed by the department’s evaluation of its first assessment. Creation of the environmental geology major concentration was driven by the awareness that a significant percentage of geology graduates were employed in environmental geology jobs. The Computer Science Department introduced a concentration in information systems in response to specific student demand for a program that enabled them to gain expertise in working with computer technology but did not require them to concentrate on programming. In coordination with the Computer Science Department, the Mathematics and Statistics Department revised some courses in response to the same demand.72 As one might expect, other proposed changes were motivated by accreditation reviews, personnel turnover, increasing or declining enrollments, and the like.73
Two important developments over the past ten years have been the increase in the number of students majoring in more than one department at Calvin and the number of students choosing to pursue a minor (Calvin does not require students to declare a minor). In 2003, 92 students graduated with double or (in a few rare cases) triple majors, compared with 63 ten years ago. This trend may be receiving encouragement from the institutional change from a course-unit to a semester-hour system of academic credit. Whereas in the last year of the course-unit system only 33 students took five courses in a single semester, now well over 500 students do so. Not surprisingly, the majority of these are students majoring in humanities fields, whose courses typically carry three hours of credit.74
It is not hard to suggest reasons that students pursue multiple majors. Besides simply having a passion for more than one discipline, many students pursue double majors because it enhances their personal marketability or because one of the majors may have a smaller perceived job market. Some students see it as a way of getting the most education for their money. Others find that the number of required cognates for a particular major pushes them close enough to an additional major that they decide to complete it.
Table 5.7 Students Who Have Graduated with Multiple Majors or with Minors
By 2003, 393 students graduated with a minor program concentration at Calvin, compared with 279 ten years ago. Both the increased flexibility of the new core curriculum and the growth in interdisciplinary minor programs have contributed to this trend.
Interdisciplinary Majors and Minors
Another interesting trend is the creation and growth of interdisciplinary major and minor programs. Interdisciplinary programs are not exactly new at Calvin; over the years several majors that cross disciplinary boundaries have been created. These are formally called group majors and currently include the following:
Besides these programs, some 40 students are enrolled in an interdisciplinary major, in which they create a major of their own design, subject to some regulations, comprising 12 courses from three different academic departments.
In addition to group and interdisciplinary majors, Calvin also offers interdisciplinary minors, including third-world development studies and urban studies. These briefer concentrations began to appear in the early 1980s, but in the past three years four more have been designed and approved, and others are in process.
Table 5.8 Interdisciplinary Minor Concentrations
Accompanying the apparent student demand for additional majors and minors, and the proliferation of new academic concentrations has been a decrease in the “efficiency” with which Calvin delivers its overall academic program. As the following table shows, the growth in the number of faculty members and the growth in student semester hours have increased faster over the past five years than the college’s overall student enrollment has.
Table 5.9 Five-Year Change in Student-Faculty Ratio
Students are taking more hours, and the college is adding more professors. Both the average number of students per course and the student-faculty ratio have decreased. Adding courses, concentrations, and professors faster than adding students may in fact be as much a sign of adding quality as adding inefficiency. Yet with the college committed to a no-growth enrollment pattern and inhibited by market forces from making any sudden tuition increases, there are limits on how much more “value” the college can add to the academic program without finding some less valuable things to eliminate. The provost and the deans presented a preliminary study of this problem of curricular sprawl and sustainability to the Planning and Priorities Committee (PPC) in May 2004, and they were encouraged to produce a more complete analysis in the coming year.75
In many arenas Calvin has broadened opportunities for collaborative research and training that support and deepen learning. These include collaborative student-faculty research projects and internships, both on campus and with Calvin community partners.
The curricula of several departmental major and minor programs have been reoriented toward inquiry-based learning and teaching, including, for example, history and biology. Previously, upper-level history courses typically asked for “research” papers, but they tended to be reviews and summaries of already published history. The students’ first real assignment in writing history from primary sources came only in the senior seminar. With the revised major, however, the History Department has put much more emphasis on learning history by doing the work of a historian. The department created a sophomore-level research methods course, thus enabling students to do original research in all subsequent history courses. A senior-level research seminar prepares students to write a more sophisticated article-length paper based on original sources. The traditional senior seminar thus is freed up to address “capstone” kinds of questions—philosophical questions about the nature of history and its uses, and religious questions about its ultimate meaning.76
The Biology Department is currently working on a thorough revision of the introductory and intermediate courses for its major, as well as its basic introductory core course for non-majors. Its aim is to create an inquiry-based approach in which the traditional lecture–lab segregation of courses is reintegrated into a problems-oriented approach, with lecture/discussion and laboratory problem-solving more intertwined. The proposal is expected to make its way to EPC in the coming year.
The college has supported a growing number of opportunities for student research, mostly in the form of student summer research assistantships, including more than 60 in the summer of 2003.77 Students in the humanities and the social sciences are funded by the college’s McGregor Summer Research Fellowship Program mentioned above. Started with grant funds, this initiative is now funded at about 50 percent through endowment raised for the program, and at about 50 percent through gifts. It pairs ten student researchers each summer with faculty members in the humanities and social sciences.78
Yet perhaps the strongest advance in this movement has occurred in the sciences, where Calvin participates in the major national organizational expressions of the undergraduate collaborative research revolution: Project Kaleidoscope and the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). Calvin faculty members have been active in CUR, and students have presented at its annual meetings. The Science Division’s active summer research program involves about 50 out of the 60 total summer student researchers per year in projects with faculty mentors in Calvin laboratories and related facilities. This activity is supported by the general budget, endowment donations, and research grants. Every fall, the work of the student researchers in the sciences is featured in a day-long poster display. Social science and humanities student researchers funded by the McGregor Program also make presentations on a day in the fall or winter.
In the fine arts, performances and exhibitions are analogous to student papers and posters in the humanities and sciences. As discussed above, the Center Art Gallery provides a major venue for showing student artwork, but art students take to the hallways as well each year for their Subterranean Art Show, and to the Commons lawn each May for the Fine Arts Festival.79 The music calendar for 2004-2005 shows 39 concerts featuring student ensembles (two bands, orchestra, six choirs, and various specialty groups, including the bell choir) and faculty recitals.80 Student recitals and off-campus ensemble concerts, weekend trips, and longer tours make for extraordinarily full and rich musical opportunities for audience members, non-music major participants, and budding music professionals alike. The award-winning, student-organized Calvin Theatre Company produces at least three major dramatic productions per year, featuring both old standards by Shaw, Ibsen, and Shakespeare, as well as some freshly written contemporary works as well. One of these, As It Is in Heaven, by New York playwright Arlene Hutton, won entry into the American College Theatre Festival’s annual competition in 2002.81 The Calvin Theatre Company, like the college’s programs in music and the visual arts, is broad and inclusive in its structure. Through a variety of programs, including a Wandering Thespian troupe, student-directed Lab Bills, and student-written Sushi Theatre productions, opportunities abound for devoted participants— theater majors and non-majors alike.82 In all these ways, the college seeks to live out its commitment to a liberal arts education aimed at lifelong learning, service, and delight.
The Honors Program
One of the most venerable forms of inquiry-based education that weaves research, teaching, and learning together is the Honors Program at Calvin. This program, which the college has maintained since 1969, is rather different from the typical honors program. Typically, such initiatives are quite small and selective, they have a separate curriculum, and they become, in effect, a college within a college. Calvin’s program aims at making challenging advanced work available to a maximum number of students. It offers eligibility to up to one-third of the entering class each year and begins with 15 to 20 honors sections of introductory courses in the core curriculum. These honors sections have smaller enrollment ceilings, develop the basic course content at a faster pace, feature some focused theme, and offer more opportunity for independent inquiry. To continue in the Honors Program and graduate with honors, students must take at least six additional courses under honors contract (custom-written course requirements, usually with a mentored independent project), including two courses in their major; complete a senior honors thesis in many departments; and maintain a Dean’s List–level grade point average. Prior to 1994, the Honors Program’s introductory courses were quite popular, but the number of students who continued with the program through graduation was small. By the mid-1990s only about four students per year were graduating with honors.83
In 1994, however, Calvin was awarded a grant to enhance its Honors Program as part of the Pew Younger Scholars Program, a national initiative run out of the University of Notre Dame and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The grant enabled Calvin’s program to feature new activities and build some group dynamics that had been missing before. Calvin honors students were now eligible to apply for places in the national program as well, both for summer seminars at Notre Dame and for a funding program for postgraduate study. In the national program’s first five years, nine Calvin graduates received Pew Younger Scholar Awards for doctoral studies. With these infusions of funding and exciting opportunities, Calvin’s program grew rapidly. The number of honors graduates at Calvin suddenly shot up from four in 1996 to 33 in 1997. With creative leadership from classics professor Kenneth Bratt and two successive grants from the McGregor Fund, the Honors Program added a summer research program in 1999, enabling ten students in the humanities and social sciences each year to work on projects alongside professors, and a sophomore-year program in 2002, designed to bridge the gap between the freshman honors sections and the honors contract courses in the junior and senior years. In May 2004 the number of honors graduates reached 71, the highest ever.84 Through this program, at least a talented tenth of the Calvin student body is able to experience firsthand the natural fit between research and college learning.
The Professorial Vocation
The experience that Calvin students gain in research has encouraged many of them to become professors and other research professionals. Calvin continues to be a national leader in producing future doctoral degree recipients. A 1998 Franklin and Marshall study of the baccalaureate origins of doctoral degree recipients showed that in the period 1920-1995, more Calvin College graduates received doctoral degrees (all fields combined) than graduates of any other institution of its kind—private, master’s granting—in the nation. Among private master’s-level institutions, Calvin ranked first in the number of graduates who received PhDs in the field of computer science, second in life sciences, second in mathematics, first in English, first in foreign languages, second in political science and international relations, first in history, and first in “other humanities.” 85
For purposes of comparison, if Calvin were ranked along with all private institutions in the Franklin and Marshall study, including those in the “ liberal arts college” category, it would rank at roughly 22nd for doctoral degrees awarded during the 1920-1995 period. Wheaton College (Illinois), a close peer of Calvin, ranks 11th, while Hope College, another close peer institution, ranks 31st. Calvin would be ranked at about 18th during the more recent 1986-1995 period, compared with Wheaton at 9th and Hope at 26th. Thus Calvin belongs in the top 3 percent of all private (800 or so private baccalaureate and master’s-level) colleges in the United States in producing graduates who go on for doctoral degrees.86
This Calvin contingent out in the nation’s “knowledge industry” helps the college’s efforts to promote learning in a number of ways. These alumni contribute to a strong pool of potentially interested candidates for faculty positions at Calvin. Their presence in the national academy gradually adds to the college’s national visibility. And as constituents, they continue to hold the college accountable for the quality of its teaching and scholarship. The college has benefited greatly from alumni academics who have served on its Board of Trustees, including professors, researchers, and administrators from Central Michigan University, Harvard University, Michigan State University, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, and University of Toronto. For resolutely religious colleges, intellectual ghettoization can be a serious problem, but Calvin’s many connections to the main terminals of academic thought and action prevent it from becoming too isolated and self-referential.
Knowledge and Responsibility
Concepts of responsibility are central to the Reformed Christian understanding of what it means to be a human being in the world. The world belongs to God, Reformed Christians affirm, and it was originally created good. All of creation is marred, however, by the consequences of human sin. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the world is being redeemed. The church, which is Christ’s body, acts as an agent of renewal, redeeming the fallen world in all of its aspects. These theological concepts are embedded in Calvin’s mission: to prepare students to be agents of renewal “in the academy, church, and society.” The three primary purposes of the college are to “engage in vigorous liberal arts education that promotes lifelong Christian service,” to “produce substantial and challenging art and scholarship,” and to “perform all our tasks as a caring and diverse educational community,” in response to a divine calling.87 At Calvin, pursuit of knowledge does not take place in isolation; rather, it is seen as a response to the Creator, who has placed us in specific natural and social environments. Thus the Handbook for Teaching Faculty states, “Calvin College asks each member of its faculty to become part of a Christian community in which we are accountable to and responsible for each other.”88 This includes a personal moral commitment to do good and avoid evil. The handbook continues, “The good that God wants has been expressed in the moral teachings of the Scriptures, explained in the Catechism’s elaboration of the Ten Commandments, epitomized in the words and deeds of our Savior, and taught to the church by the apostles and by the theologians who have served the church in every age.”89 Similarly, the sum of what the college expects of students in their outlook and behavior is “responsible freedom,” defined by one faculty member as “the cultivation of a Spirit-directed life building a godly conscience.”90 Unlike many American evangelical colleges, Calvin de-emphasizes rule-based controls on the private lives of its students, preferring to emphasize the goal of building maturity and purposeful living and learning on campus.91
As noted above, the core curriculum aims to instill not only basic knowledge and skills but also virtues. Calvin faculty and students approach issues of academic integrity in their learning and teaching in this way, emphasizing the virtues of honesty, diligence, stewardship, and justice. Positively engaging these character traits is one of the purposes of the core curriculum. Recognizing that “[t]he student-faculty relationship is based on trust and mutual respect which can be seriously undermined by the suspicion or reality of academic dishonesty,”92 student and faculty regulations protect academic integrity through clear definitions and procedures. Intellectual property provisions are codified in the faculty and student handbooks, and structures of due process are defined.93 With regard to allegations of scientific misconduct, the college has established policies that include clear definitions and procedures to be followed, and it has designated an official responsible for adjudicating and enforcing these procedures—namely, the research integrity officer, who is normally the dean for the natural sciences and mathematics.94
The college pays special attention to issues of academic honesty, plagiarism, and copyrighting procedures. The issue of plagiarism is addressed directly in the core curriculum—in the syllabi of the required core courses Written Rhetoric and Research and Information Technology (RIT). The plagiarism statement for Written Rhetoric, which includes an explicit and detailed definition of plagiarism, is published on the Web and is used and adapted by other departments.95 The RIT syllabus addresses the technical aspects of the issue and seeks to “establish a viewpoint from which students can make ethically responsible judgments regarding the appropriate use of information technology.”96 Faculty members are encouraged to treat incidents of suspected plagiarism as opportunities both to inform students about the “moral and legal ramifications of plagiarism” and to teach them ways to avoid it.97
Beginning two years ago, the college began a fresh approach to the problem of academic dishonesty. Faculty Senate approved revisions to the Student Conduct Code requiring faculty to report all cases of academic dishonesty to the vice president for student life. This resulted in a sharp increase in the reporting of such incidents.98
Table 5.11 Reported Incidents of Academic Dishonesty
In order to make a concerted approach to this and other incidents involving the conduct code, the Student Life Division developed a new office and deanship for judicial affairs. The Student Conduct Code requires that a student be permitted to respond to allegations of academic dishonesty. Should a student deny guilt and contest the allegations, a faculty member may not unilaterally impose sanctions. Rather, allegations are then adjudicated by the Student Life Division. This process protects students from unwarranted accusations and ensures their right to a third-party hearing.99 The dean of students for judicial affairs and the Academic Council have agreed to work together to study academic dishonesty and develop an appropriate response for the college.100
The Handbook for Teaching Faculty includes a detailed copyright policy summary,101 and a copyright seminar for faculty is planned for fall semester 2004. The departments of the Instructional Resource Center (IRC) follow procedures designed to conform to copyright law, such as pursuing legal avenues for duplicating media and licensing images that are used in publication. Calvin Information Technology uses site licensing and software metering to ensure computer software compliance. The Printing Services Office is registered with the Copyright Clearance Center and facilitates the licensing of “course packs” for distribution in the bookstore. The college’s performing venues are covered by appropriate licenses with ASCAP, BMI, and CCLI.
The director of the IRC fulfills some functions of a copyright officer by initiating responses to allegations of infringement communicated by representatives of the software, music, and movie industries against people who receive Internet access from Calvin College. These procedures are in accordance with provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and involve offices in the Information Technology and Student Life divisions. In addition, the IRC director fields copyright questions from faculty and staff and presents an overview of copyright law to several Media Ethics classes each year.
Research and Oversight
As noted in chapter three, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) is the faculty committee charged with responsibility for regulating research using human or animal subjects. Faculty and departments that use human and animal subjects in research must complete and submit a research protocol form for IRB approval. Certain types of research are exempted from the process; student course research projects are given an expedited review in which the faculty supervisor describes the research project to the IRB and takes responsibility for enforcing ethical behavior in the conduct of the research project.102
The IRB policies, compliance documents, guidelines, standards, and protocols recently were linked to the Web site of the Center for Social Research (CSR).103 This new linkage signifies a determination on the college’s part to apply the guidelines, standards, and protocols for research on human subjects more consistently than they have been in the past. Beginning in 2004, all CSR staff members and student research assistants will be trained and certified in human subject protocols up to the standards required of a federal grant. Any project associated with the CSR will be required to meet the same standard. Training opportunities for faculty will also be provided. The dean for research and scholarship has also been working on raising the level of compliance. All social science research projects will be reviewed by the IRB, and all data will be secured according to federal and state standards.
Calvin College’s main declaration about research, scholarship, and learning is that while disinterested inquiry—discovering new things solely for the sake of satisfying the quest to know—is a valid enterprise, it is not the ultimate or even the preeminent aim of learning. The aim is to honor God, the great Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all things, and to engage as God’s willing agents in this grand narrative of redemption.104 This emphasis has been on the upswing at Calvin over the past decade, both in the college’s rhetoric and in its concrete programs of action. This development is, in fact, the latest chapter of a longer historic departure from the emphasis that the college made public in Christian Liberal Arts Education (1970), a historic curricular report and proposal. That document gave central emphasis to disinterested or theoretical study in the academic disciplines. Now the focus is less on the disciplines themselves than it is on the natural and constructed reality they were established to explore and engage, and the ways in which they might equip us for constructive engagement. As we have seen, the theme and norm of engagement permeate the research, teaching, and learning on campus, from the performing arts to the laboratory sciences. In the following chapter we shall focus more intently on the substance and quality of that engagement.
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