Self-Study Report: Chapter Six
Engagement and Service
Community engagement and service have become central to Calvin’s mission, and appropriate and effective structures and programs exist to maintain the college’s engagement with its various partners. In keeping with its mission, the college has active partnerships with agencies of its parent church and other religious groups, with institutions in the Grand Rapids urban area, and with numerous national and international organizations. While the Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College (ESM) focuses on the relationship between the college and its sponsoring denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, Calvin has dramatically expanded its partnerships outside the church and has become more proactive in serving additional constituencies. Through a variety of programs, the college identifies and creates platforms for collaborating effectively with its partners.
Identifying Communities of Engagement: Partners in Learning
Calvin College has in place an impressive variety of programs responding to the needs of the constituencies it serves locally, nationally, and internationally. Until recently, most of these programs were developed in reaction to expressed needs or perceived opportunities, without much centralized coordination or planning growing out of the college’s institutional priorities. Initiatives were often begun through the personal relationships of faculty or staff members with church members or professional colleagues. In the decade since its last accreditation review, the college has recognized that if the relationships and programs it has developed are to be sustained, it needs to become more intentional about analyzing its ongoing capacities and planning for engagement in a continuing and systematic way.
Partners with Local, National, and International Networks of Higher Education
Calvin participates in a variety of local, national, and international networks of higher education, in accordance with its mission. These relationships provide Calvin faculty and staff with opportunities to serve and to lead, and they enable the college to take part in some important higher education–initiated community service programs as well.
Local Networks of Higher Education:
Calvin’s leadership in local networks of higher education can be seen in several recent ventures.
In May 2004 the Calvin campus hosted a panel discussion on affirmative action in higher education. It was organized and sponsored jointly by President Byker and the presidents of Aquinas College, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Reformed Bible College, Hope College, Ferris State University, Western Michigan University, and Cooley Law School. Representatives of a group that has proposed banning affirmative action in Michigan through an amendment to the state constitution participated in a panel discussion together with representatives from two groups opposed to it to provide a balanced look at an issue that is critical for Michigan colleges and universities.1
Another example: Calvin is a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the nation’s oldest organized athletic conference. Calvin’s president has been very active in the MIAA college presidents’ policy-making discussions. Calvin is especially vigilant in protecting the “student” side of the student-athlete model that is under constant pressure for athletic specialization and professionalization. In national NCAA Division III programs, Calvin representatives have played active roles as well. The NCAA recently awarded Calvin one of its three-year Choices grants to implement and evaluate an effective alcohol education program.2
On another front: since 1991 Calvin has been a part of the national Campus Compact movement, a coalition of colleges and universities committed to the civic purpose of higher education. Calvin’s participation in this movement has resulted in three major ventures:
Michigan Campus Compact, a loosely organized state chapter of the national Campus Compact movement in which Calvin participates, encourages colleges and universities to make servicelearning more salient in their priorities and to establish “compacts” or partnerships for learning and development with neighborhood organizations. This group awarded Calvin business professor Steve VanderVeen one of its 2003 Faculty/Staff Community Service-Learning Awards. VanderVeen’s work targeted Grand Rapids’ Burton Heights neighborhood, where many new businesses belong to Hispanic owners. Since 2000 he and students from his small-business management and advanced marketing classes have helped owners with their business and marketing plans. This project formed part of Calvin@Burton Heights, Calvin’s many-pronged community engagement project funded by a HUD Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) grant.6
Calvin has long-standing collaboration in Grand Rapids with health care and research agencies. Recently, this partnership resulted in an important joint venture on Calvin’s campus, a new facility for the West Michigan Regional Laboratory (WMRL). WMRL is a research laboratory for the medical education and research collaborative that involves Michigan State University Medical School, Van Andel Research Institute, local teaching hospitals, and several local universities, including Calvin.7 The Calvin nursing program also participates in a regional collaborative to link teaching hospitals and local nursing education programs at Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, and Calvin, Aquinas, and Hope colleges.8 The ties to Michigan State University (MSU) and the Van Andel Research Institute have been particularly helpful for faculty and student research, as seen in chapter five. These ties will only become stronger, since MSU recently decided to relocate its medical school to Grand Rapids.
Calvin belongs to several associations of colleges and universities in the state of Michigan, one of the most venerable of which is the Michigan Academy of Arts and Sciences, a century-old institution that publishes a journal and holds an annual conference at one of its member schools. Calvin hosted the meeting in 1998. Calvin is also a member of the Association of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan (AICUM), an influential lobby in the state capital for private institutions ranging from the University of Detroit Mercy to tiny Finlandia College in the Upper Peninsula. President Byker is the current chair of the organization and works closely with Edward Blews, its director. Calvin is one of 11 members of the Michigan Colleges Foundation, a collaborative effort aimed at raising funds for independent colleges. President Byker serves on its executive committee. Calvin CIT staff members have planned and led several workshops and conferences with this group, including an initiative funded by the Ameritech Corporation to develop teaching with technology.
Calvin is, in sum, emerging as a partner in a wide variety of local and state initiatives. It actively engages on a variety of fronts in and around the city of Grand Rapids. The college cultivates legislative and philanthropic support for independent colleges and universities statewide, and it shares its strengths with neighboring institutions.
National Networks of Higher Education:
Calvin College belongs to a variety of national organizations of higher education, such as the American Council on Education, American Association of Colleges and Universities, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), and Lilly Network of Colleges and Universities. Of these formal national ties, Calvin engages most actively in three: CCCU, the Lilly Network, and CIC.
CCCU, an organization of 110 member institutions in North America and some three dozen international affiliates, has looked to Calvin for leadership. Calvin administrative staff members in the college’s various divisions frequently give presentations on panels at national CCCU meetings. Provost Joel Carpenter is a member of CCCU’s Faith, Learning, Living Commission, is a senior fellow advising CCCU on international relations, and serves as a peer reviewer for CCCU’s Initiative Grants Program. Henry De Vries, vice president for administration, finance, and information services, serves on CCCU’s Information Technology Commission. Shirley Hoogstra, vice president for student life, has served as a mentor in the Leadership Development Institutes for CCCU women and as a member of the Commission for Advancing Intercultural Competencies. Tom McWhertor, vice president for enrollment and external relations, chaired CCCU’s Commission of Chief Enrollment Officers for several years. The college hosted several CCCU conferences in 2003-2004.9
Calvin faculty members have led two of the eight discipline-focused CCCU summer seminars over the last five years (foreign language and drama), have authored a majority of the books in the CCCU book series on Christian perspectives in various academic fields, have led other topical seminars and workshops, and were influential in the development of several CCCU semester abroad programs, notably in Costa Rica and China. Because of Calvin’s capable Seminars in Christian Scholarship program, the college has been made the site host for two additional CCCU disciplinary summer seminars (history and political science).
CIC membership consists mainly of smaller, church-related colleges. The CIC president personally invited Calvin to rejoin in 1999 after Calvin had let its membership lapse because of a perceived mismatch in institutional size and scope between Calvin and most CIC institutions. Since then Calvin has played a leadership role in the organization in a number of ways. The Calvin provost has twice presented papers at annual CIC meetings for chief academic officers, once on the development of campus information services and once on Calvin’s science education program. Calvin has participated in two of the CIC’s most salient recent programs. It was one of six CIC colleges to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) for community partnership building, and it won a Heuer Award for excellence in science education for its NSF-funded programs with the Grand Rapids Public Schools.10
Calvin has given strong input in the cluster of programs in the Lilly Network aimed at church-related colleges and universities that want to continue to address the relationship of faith to higher education. Calvin faculty and staff members are regular participants in Lilly Network meetings and conferences, and the college has sponsored two conferences and a summer seminar for the network. Calvin’s 125th anniversary conference, “Christian Scholarship … For What?” (September 2001) was part of an informal series aimed particularly at the institutions of the Lilly Network, which includes Protestant, Catholic, and evangelical schools.11
One of the more dramatic ways in which Calvin has engaged the larger world of higher education over the past decade has been through its Seminars in Christian Scholarship. This program seeks to “promote a strong Christian voice in the academy by addressing issues of current debate within various disciplines” from a Christian perspective and to produce “first-order scholarship.” It began by means of a $1 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts in December 1994 to fund a series of extended, multi-week summer seminars that would pair a senior scholar in a field of inquiry with a group of a dozen participants for the purpose of encouraging their research and publication in that field. Since the summer of 1996, when the program began, it has grown and flourished, and its support base has diversified, with funding also coming from the Fieldstead Institute, Lilly Endowment, Templeton Foundation, Luce Foundation, and a variety of co-sponsors, such as the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the Lilly Network, for a total of more than $4 million in total support. Since its inception the Seminars in Christian Scholarship Program has produced more than 30 multi-week research seminars and hosted more than 500 participants. It has also planned, promoted, and produced 23 academic conferences. Eleven collaborative, seminar-produced books have been published or are in press at publishers such as Cornell, Indiana, and Oxford university presses. Particpants of the seminars have gone on to publish 29 books of their own, with another 11 forthcoming, and 63 articles, with another 26 in press.12
Calvin also played a role in the formation of the Association of Reformed Institutions in Higher Education (ARIHE), an informal consortium of eight North American colleges and universities in the Reformed tradition for the purposes of cooperating in faculty development and graduate education programs. The organization started in 1993 as ARUNA, the Association for a Reformed University in North America. It is informally organized, with no legally registered status, but it functions as a semi-annual gathering of presidents and academic vice presidents representing eight Reformed colleges: Calvin, Covenant College, Dordt College, Geneva College, the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, King’s University College, Redeemer University College, and Trinity Christian College. Emeritus Calvin officers—former provost Gordon Van Harn and former academic dean Frank Roberts—have served successive terms as the organization’s administrative coordinators. The initial dream of collaborating to form a Reformed university has not been abandoned, but of late the group has focused on more modest, immediate projects, such as the cooperative offering of graduate education courses at the M.Ed. level. The aims of this project are to develop master teachers for K-12 settings and to address the critical shortage of qualified principals and superintendents in the Reformed Christian network of day schools. Calvin education professor Clarence Joldersma was one of three scholars chosen to initiate the ARIHE lecturer program, which is designed to stimulate discussion of Reformed approaches to faith and learning issues on ARIHE campuses.13
At Calvin there is also a chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) organized by a number of faculty members. Calvin’s involvement was pioneered by economics professor George Monsma, a longtime individual member, and by two new faculty members who had been leaders at prior institutions—Helen Sterk (communication arts and sciences) and Daniel Bays (history)—and who both came to Calvin initially as holders of the Spoelhof Chair. Many Calvin faculty members and administrators were uneasy about this move because the AAUP has defined academic freedom in such a way that universities with religious commitments and requirements are suspect. The AAUP also has acted much like a labor union in recent years, with options for campus chapters to become collective bargaining agencies for professors. Yet the Calvin professors’ AAUP chapter has focused on the national organization’s historic interests in campus governance and the nature of the professoriate. The Calvin chapter has functioned in an interesting way. It has advised the administration and Faculty Senate on matters of governance, such as the development of a faculty code of conduct. It provided an opportunity for Calvin to present its remarkable model of shared governance at the state AAUP meeting. And it has allowed Calvin faculty the opportunity, at AAUP national meetings and in the AAUP national magazine, to argue for the positive role that religious universities can play in promoting academic freedom. 14
International Networks of Higher Education:
Calvin has long-standing relationships with international networks of higher education, especially those that share its vision of Christian higher education in the Reformed tradition. An early example of this was Calvin’s institutional membership in the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE), formed in 1975 as a network of Dutch-originated, neo-Calvinist institutions and individual scholars in North America, Africa, Europe, and East Asia. The purpose of the association has been to develop a community of Christian scholars and academic institutions, working together to promote Christian higher education worldwide. The organization has grown to include 450 individual and 34 institutional members. It holds occasional conferences and produces a newsletter, Contact. Calvin helps provide leadership (economics professor George Monsma is currently on the IAPCHE board) as the organization struggles to translate its original Dutch neo-Calvinism into terms understandable and attractive to its new African, Asian, Latin American, and Eastern European clients. It is one of the few agencies in the world that assists the rapidly growing evangelical universities in the global South and East.15
In the process of expanding its international off-campus programs and providing service to new Christian universities seeking resources on the integration of faith and learning, Calvin has developed a variety of bilateral agreements and partnerships with foreign universities, including Hoogeschool Zeeland (Netherlands), Russian-American Christian University (Moscow), Peoples Friendship University (Moscow), Károli Gáspár Reformed University (Budapest), National Pedagogical University (Tegucigalpa), Beijing Institute of Technology in China, University of Ghana, Oak Hill College (London), Regional State University in Denia (Spain), University of Grenoble (France), Handong Global University (South Korea), and Daystar University (Kenya). Some of these agreements are contractual, involving the hosting and servicing of Calvin’s off-campus semester programs, but in several instances (Károli Gáspár, Handong, and Daystar) they also provide for exchanges of students. Another university partnership, with Birzeit University in Palestine, involves Calvin’s archaeology minor.16
Calvin also has an ongoing involvement with several Christian universities in South Korea (Handong, Kosin, Cheonan, Seoul Women’s, Chongshin, and Sogang) for faculty development, with particular focus on issues of faith and learning. Professors from each of these institutions have participated in a year-long visiting scholars program at Calvin. This program was formalized in 2001, built on earlier informal arrangements. Calvin officials and faculty members have participated in several seminars and workshops in South Korea.17
More broadly, the Provost’s Office has fielded numerous communications and hosted many visits regarding the start-up of new Christian universities elsewhere in the world, and the provost and deans have provided advice and counsel. Recent inquiries and contacts have come from higher education personnel in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Haiti, Costa Rica, Congo, Burundi, and Malawi.18
Over the past decade Calvin has developed a more robust outreach to international students (beyond Canadians), who numbered 91 (2.4 percent) in 1994 and grew to 197 (4.5 percent) in 2003.19 The most dynamic group of these students has been the Africans, with the delegations from Ghana and Nigeria being the largest. Calvin also has many Korean students, especially the children of Korean expatriates who are serving as missionaries elsewhere in the world. In addition, Calvin has developed and maintained ties to Christian secondary schools in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and China, all of which continue to send students to Calvin.
Table 6.1 Largest Populations of International Students by Country, 2003
Partners with the Church
As an institution of higher learning whose mission lies squarely within the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity, Calvin provides significant educational leadership to its parent denomination, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), as well as to the broader Christian church, especially among American Protestant denominations.
The Christian Reformed Church (CRC)
As stated in chapter two, Calvin has a formal relationship with its parent denomination, the CRC. Beyond this formal relationship, there are many points of contact and concrete partnerships between the college and the church. Beyond the lively personal connections to the CRC afforded by half its students and most of its faculty, there are programmatic engagements with denominational agencies that make the CRC one of the college’s most important external partners in community engagement.
Students take advantage of service-learning opportunities with ministries and agencies of the CRC as well as other Christian agencies. Several of Calvin’s off-campus programs operate in close cooperation with church agencies:
Beyond off-campus programs, several other Calvin programs are built upon partnerships with the CRC:
Some of these programs and initiatives continue longtime connections, but others are new. What is new also is a fresh determination, written into goals of last two strategic plans, to reconnect and form partnerships with the CRC.20
The Larger Christian Church
Because a large percentage of Calvin’s students and recent graduates are members of Protestant denominations other than the CRC, the community of Protestant churches in North America and worldwide is a constituency of growing importance to Calvin.21
The college maintains connections with these denominations and churches through various means. One means is through the CRC: several denominations in the Reformed tradition of Christianity routinely send representatives to the synod of the CRC. The college has formal relations with other denominations through its membership in numerous organizations of Christian higher education. The college also has informal relationships with other denominations through its faculty, administration, and staff, many of whom serve on interdenominational committees and boards. The CRC has been a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) since 1988, and the college has held a seat on NAE’s higher education commission.
A major initiative undertaken by Calvin in cooperation with local churches is the Pathways to Possibilities (P2P) program. Started in January of 1997 with initial funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, P2P is now supported partly from the college budget and partly through continued outside grants and corporate funding. P2P is a broad partnership between Calvin and 16 churches in the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland triangle, administered by Calvin’s Office of Pre- College Programs.22
Calvin has participated with the Grand Rapids Area Council for Ecumenism (GRACE) in several initiatives. Among the most important of these are the GRACE-sponsored Institutes for Healing Racism. These are of two kinds: eight-week Faith-Based Institutes for Healing Racism and two-day Community Institutes for Healing Racism. The Calvin Anti-Racism Team (CART) has referred staff and faculty to the GRACE-sponsored trainings, and the Student Life Division is working to bring an eight-week session to campus. Calvin has also hosted the GRACE Summit on Racism four times, including, most recently, in the spring of 2004. The Summit on Racism grew out of an initiative of GRACE’s Racial Justice Institute, which sponsored the first summit in 1999. Due to the overwhelming community response—it drew several hundred participants—the event has been held annually since then. The summit continues to attract a diverse group of people who come together each year to learn and share ideas but, most importantly, to create a plan of action to combat racism in Grand Rapids.23
Calvin participated for a number of years in the Inter-Religious Dialogue Association, and the college now has a growing participation in the West Shore Committee for Jewish-Christian Dialogue, as a sponsor and host of its annual meetings.24 Calvin faculty members were heavily involved in bringing the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition to Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Museum Center. The college was a co-sponsor of the exhibit, and Grand Rapids was the only American city to host it in 2003.25
Calvin’s commitment to education at all levels from a Christian perspective drives its engagement with the Reformed Christian day school movement. The Kuyers Institute for Christian Teaching and Learning, a newly endowed initiative, is a study center of pedagogy from a Reformed Christian perspective.26 Calvin is involved in the annual Christian Educators Association conference that meets in the upper Midwest. Ten to 12 Calvin faculty members typically make presentations at this conference for K-12 teachers. Calvin provides facilities and resources for the Christian Schools International Educators Leadership Development Institute (CSI-LDI), an annual, week-long symposium aimed at developing leadership skills and vocational interest for those considering a future in Christian schools administration.
Perhaps the most far-reaching of all of Calvin’s engagements with broader religious realms comes via the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW), founded in 1997. With major funding from the Lilly Endowment, CICW runs conferences and workshops, awards grants, and publishes resources on worship for churches. It quickly established a broadly ecumenical national reputation for serving churches in this critical area of change and debate. The annual Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts brings about 1,500 church leaders to the college campus for leadership training in all aspects of worship, worship planning, teaching, and preaching. The majority of those served are not members of the CRC, but a large number are, including about 150 ministers of the CRC—more than the number who attend the annual synod of the church.27
Civic Partners in Grand Rapids and the West Michigan Region
Calvin faculty and staff have long been engaged in the civic life of Grand Rapids, responding to opportunities to serve on an individual basis. The overlapping composition of some of Calvin’s main communities of engagement means that a good bit of this involvement comes through the colleges and churches just noted. But Calvin’s engagement in the greater Grand Rapids area is far broader even than these. A study in 1998 showed that Calvin faculty and staff were serving on the boards of about 120 volunteer organizations, ranging from the Baxter Community Center to the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra.28
Calvin’s reputation once was that of an inwardly focused community that did not have much to do with civic life, but this has changed considerably in the past decade. A year after President Byker’s arrival, an article in the Grand Rapids Press noted a broadening of community involvement at the college through an expansion of programs and increased areas for student and faculty service.29 This article was indeed newsworthy because ten years ago Calvin had some work to do in presenting a friendlier, more open public face in the Grand Rapids community and in communicating a more obvious interest in engagement. A new agenda began with subtle but significant modifications in the college’s spatial presence. The campus always has been open, not gated. People can walk and drive through it without passing checkpoints or the like, via entrances from three of the city’s major thoroughfares. Even so, many visitors found it difficult to find their way because of a dearth of signs and maps on campus. Improved signage and inviting landscaping at building entrances helped signal the college’s efforts to be more accessible to the general public.
Another subtle change concerned attitudes toward the use of campus facilities. Elimination of the college-sponsored Sunday morning worship service on campus (1995) came with an invitation to area churches to welcome students into their fellowships. The vast majority of students travel to these churches by carpool, but 21 local congregations offer transportation to students by request, and nine local churches from a variety of denominations—Assemblies of God, Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, Lutheran, Reformed, Christian Reformed, Roman Catholic, and non-denominational—send vans or buses to campus to pick up students. Woodlawn CRC, a congregation independent of college control, continues to use the campus chapel and welcome students to its services. A contemporary worship service (called LOFT, “Living Our Faith Together”) is organized by students on campus for Sunday evenings.
The Hekman Library is raising its profile as a community research facility. It includes the finest theological library in the region, which local pastors are welcome to use. Likewise, the more general collection makes Calvin’s library the largest research library in the Grand Rapids area, with stacks open to the public. It provides more sources for inter-library loans than it receives. In contrast to librarians at many other colleges, Calvin librarians actively create and publish databases— five of them, with a total of more than 95,000 records—providing a wealth of material for theological researchers, including local pastors.
Table 6.2 Research Databases Produced by the Hekman Library
More broadly significant for serving the larger public are the many research databases the library offers to researchers across the disciplines and professional fields. As recounted in chapter three, building the Web-based platform for accessing these databases and the college’s own collections was a major achievement with tremendous capacity-building implications for serving visiting researchers. At Calvin, library resource check-outs are much more frequent per student enrolled than they are at comparable institutions. Even though one might conclude that Calvin students and faculty use the library more than their peers at comparable institutions, these circulation levels suggest heavier use of the library by the surrounding community.30
The Community Comes to Calvin
The changes in the library are indicative of a not-so-subtle increase in the number of public serving facilities and events on Calvin’s campus. These are, by and large, events that are compatible with the larger educative purposes of the college.
For Summer Camps
The college operates a variety of camps and educational programs for area youth each summer. 31 Calvin faculty and staff teach and administer these camps, usually in cooperation with high school and/or middle school teachers and advanced Calvin students. In 2004 these camps included the following:
Table 6.3 Number of K-12 Students Participating in Summer Camps at Calvin College, Summer 2004
Most Calvin-hosted summer camps are regularly evaluated using several mechanisms, including evaluation forms filled out by campers and their parents, as well as observation of and discussion among instructors. These responses are used by the academic departments who plan and teach the camps in feedback cycles that inform the content and pedagogy for the following year’s camps. But enrollment figures continue to be a basic evaluation instrument—low enrollments indicate lack of interest among the targeted groups and force the cancellation of camps, as happened in 2004, when two language camps were cancelled. Throughout the first half of 2004 a cross-divisional review team studied the summer camps and made recommendations to the President’s Cabinet and the Planning and Priorities Committee for their improvement.32
For cultural events
With a large number of major cultural events each year on Calvin’s campus, the college functions as an important regional intellectual and artistic center.
For years Calvin has offered its campus facilities for conferences, workshops, and other special events. In response to rising demand, in 2002 Calvin built the Prince Conference Center, which not only meets the college’s convening and hosting needs but also is used by a variety of non-profit and other organizations.34 Construction of the Prince Conference Center, which represents a major investment of physical plant, staff, and financial resources in service of external agencies, has enhanced the college’s capacity to host large conferences year round. During the summer numerous large conferences also continue to use space in the residence halls and other campus facilities. Regular annual visitors include the Central District Youth Conference of the Missionary Church, which has sent 1,400 young people to Calvin each June for 26 years. Three other annual conferences that draw more than 1,000 visitors include the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Rotary Youth convention, and the convention of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. A full listing below for the summer of 2004 shows how busy the campus remains each summer as a community-serving host.
Table 6.4 Events Hosted on Calvin’s Campus, Summer 2004
For Lifelong Learning
One of the most popular attempts at community outreach and service at Calvin has been the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL), a membership-driven organization in which senior citizens enroll in short-term (four- to six-week) courses for a nominal fee. CALL also sponsors a noon lecture series and a film travel series that draws over 600 season ticket holders and up to 200 guests for each program. The purposes of CALL, founded in 1996, are to serve the members by enriching their “lifelong spiritual, intellectual, cultural, and social lives,” and to “create an abiding partnership between Calvin College and senior citizens in greater Grand Rapids who wish to share knowledge, talents, and experience.”35 In the spring of 2004 CALL’s membership exceeded 550. In 2001 CALL sent its leaders to participate in the first statewide conference of the Institutes for Learning in Retirement, and it affiliates with the Elderhostel Institute Network.
The college supports CALL through its offices of Alumni and Public Relations and Lifelong Education. The college president serves as the superintendent of the program and appoints two Calvin faculty or staff members to the CALL board. The college provides the use of classrooms and the auditorium in the Fine Arts Center, as well as office space and technical support. Most courses are taught by current and former Calvin faculty and staff members, and the coordinators of the program are emeriti Calvin faculty and staff members. CALL has demonstrated its gratitude to the college by establishing a scholarship to support an older Calvin student.36
Calvin in the Community
Calvin’s programs of service and engagement in greater Grand Rapids are many and varied. Last year more than 1,800 students and 100 faculty members participated in service activities sponsored by the college’s Service-Learning Center, and many more served the community in other ways. A few examples will serve to illustrate this enormous body of work.37
One well-traveled route from Calvin into the community is through local schools. Many academic departments at Calvin operate outreach programs in area schools. For example, the Art Department has a liaison program with Coit Arts Academy, giving faculty time to art students in that urban neighborhood. The department also hosts an annual meeting and workshop for area art educators. The Biology Department sponsors a K-3 environmental education program that has a special focus on urban school children. Calvin foreign language faculty members serve as language consultants for community development programs in local school districts. The college has a long history of close cooperation with schools in the Christian Schools International system, an organization of 450 Christian schools in the Reformed tradition not only in North America but also on other continents, headquartered in Grand Rapids. Numerous Calvin faculty and staff members have served on the board of the Grand Rapids Christian School Association as well as the boards of individual schools. Calvin also made land available virtually cost-free for the Grand Rapids Christian Schools to develop the 36-acre Gainey Athletic Facility on the college’s far eastern perimeter.
In addition to many outreach programs in the Christian schools, Calvin is deeply involved in the public schools of Grand Rapids. Former Calvin provost Gordon Van Harn served on the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Board of Education (1997-2002). Between 2000 and 2004, Calvin sent 762 student teachers into area schools; the majority of the students (437, or 57.3 percent) entered the public schools. The majority of Calvin’s first-year teacher education internships are done in the Grand Rapids Public Schools, and the majority of Calvin’s teacher education graduate placements are in public, not private, schools.38 Over half of the certified teachers graduating from Calvin who are placed in teaching positions enter schools in the state of Michigan. In 2002-2003 (the latest year for which data are available), 70 of 126 graduates (55.5 percent) were placed in non-public schools, as shown in the following table.
Table 6.5 Education Department Job Placement Data, 2002-2003
In the preceding three years, almost half of Calvin’s teacher placements (201 of 404, or 49.8 percent) were in public schools, as the following table shows.
Table 6.6 Education Department Job Placement Data, 1999-2002
For many other people in the Grand Rapids area, the way they first encounter Calvin College is through music. For 70 years, the Calvin Oratorio Society has annually given a Christmas presentation of Handel’s Messiah in downtown venues as a “Christmas gift” to the city. Each year, the Music Department offers three dozen on-campus concerts featuring student ensembles and faculty recitals, all of which are open to the public and free of charge. Calvin student groups and faculty regularly perform in the Grand Rapids area and beyond.39
Some of these community engagements are long-standing and “traditional”; others are new and grow out of the professional or personal interests of individual faculty or staff members. For the most part there is little overarching coordination of these initiatives. For instance, no composite list exists of Calvin’s various academic outreach programs in the local schools. Recognizing a potential problem of miscommunication and duplication of efforts, Calvin began building institutional structures in the late 1990s to achieve better coordination of these efforts, in order to make them more responsive to community needs, to enable better assessment and improvement, and to sustain them for the future.
One of the most important of Calvin’s recent efforts in community engagement is the Community Outreach Partnership Center in the Burton Heights neighborhood of Grand Rapids, about two miles west of the college. The Burton Heights project, known as Calvin@BurtonHeights, involves faculty, staff, and students from a wide range of departments and offices of the college in collaborative community development work that is connected to learning and service.40 The project is funded by a three-year, $399,949 grant from the Office of University Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ( HUD). Calvin partners with several agencies in the project, including the Garfield Development Corporation, Garfield Park Neighborhood Association, Burton Heights Business Association, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Neighborhood Business Specialists Program, Buchanan Elementary School, Burton Health Clinic, and Health Intervention Services. The project has four main components, including business and housing,41 education,42 health,43 and community organizing.44 Through the HUD national program, communities benefit by utilizing the significant and often untapped resources of colleges and universities, and college faculty, staff, and students benefit by bringing real-world application to academic study. The Calvin@BurtonHeights project has been a catalyst to help the college focus its community engagement efforts within a neighborhood using a strong local partnership model. Calvin@BurtonHeights has served as a way to link a number of existing Calvin outreach programs, including academic outreach programs in local schools, partnerships developed in the teacher education program,45 service-learning components of academic courses, and the like. It also has helped individual programs solidify their commitments to a community-engagement approach to education. Calvin’s neighborhood nursing program provides a good case in point.
Calvin has had a nursing program since the 1930s; it developed a BSN program in cooperation with Hope College in the early 1980s. In the fall of 2000 the two colleges determined that they were now each able, both financially and in faculty qualifications, to support independent programs, since it had become increasingly difficult to manage a joint nursing program between two colleges that are 40 miles apart in distance and have very different committee structures, library and computer systems, and even academic calendars. Calvin’s new nursing program was phased in over a three-year period beginning in 2002. The first class graduated in May 2004. The department received accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in the spring of 2004.
The nursing program was the first new academic program developed after the implementation of the college’s new core curriculum. Indeed, a desire to incorporate the aims and spirit of the new core was another important factor in the Calvin nursing professors’ desire for a separate program. The goals of the community-focused nursing curriculum grew naturally from the virtues emphasized in the core curriculum, especially compassion and justice,46 and they fit well with the aims of the Calvin@BurtonHeights program. As part of its new program, the Nursing Department established partnerships with three underserved neighborhoods in the central city: Creston, Baxter, and Burton Heights. Active community organizations in each neighborhood now work with Calvin to assess and meet their communities’ health care needs. Students work in clinical placements in the three neighborhoods throughout all four semesters of the program. The construction and ongoing refinement of the program are driven by community residents’ responses to surveys about their needs. Residents’ responses have been affirming; the program shows that Calvin is interested in real partnerships that meet the needs of the community.47
A Valued Partner: Engaging Our Constituencies
True engagement requires this kind of responsive communication and interaction with neighbors and partners, including shared committees and boards of oversight; adequate opportunities for evaluation, collaborative review, and assessment in the interests of furthering common goals and commitments; and the creation and use of appropriate feedback mechanisms.
The tremendous growth of programs of community engagement at Calvin has presented organizational challenges. Sustaining the excellent initiatives that have begun, developing them into mature relationships, and building them into the permanent planning, budgetary, and curricular structures of the college depend on effective communication with community partners and on clear coordination of the college’s efforts and programs. Calvin’s most recent programs in Grand Rapids show how to structure these community partnerships. A new position created at the college—a director of community engagement—signals the college’s desire to give its varied local efforts more coordination.
Engagement with the Church
There is regular and ongoing feedback about Calvin’s partnerships with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and other Christian churches and denominations, particularly those that also connect with civic agencies and organizations in Grand Rapids.
The Christian Reformed Church
As described in chapter two, Calvin and the CRC are linked at several levels. The CRC operates five agencies of ministry and two educational institutions (Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary). While the denominational Board of Trustees uses the term supervises to define its governance of the agencies, it cooperates with the college and the seminary. This wording preserves the academic integrity of both educational institutions from undue interference by the church. Sixteen members of Calvin’s 31-member Board of Trustees are representatives of regional church bodies. The formal mission statement and strategic plans of the CRC are approved by the college’s Board of Trustees in this context of cooperation. As noted in chapter three, the college and church are also linked through the CRC’s financial support of the college. “Ministry share” giving—mandated contributions of CRC congregations to the college channeled through the denomination’s offices—constitutes a living endowment of the college. These gifts to the college total approximately $2.9 million annually, about 4 percent of Calvin’s annual operating budget. Additionally, the executive associate to the college president serves on the Ministries Administrative Council of the CRC, giving an average of three days per month in coordinated and cooperative efforts with the executive administrative leadership of the denomination.
The college shares its resources and services with the CRC, including the Hekman Library and the Heritage Hall Archives, which are major repositories of denominational publications and records; the Prince Conference Center, which frequently hosts CRC meetings at reduced rates; and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, which serves CRC congregations more frequently than it serves any other denomination. With a few exceptions, the Calvin campus annually hosts the meeting of the synod, the denomination-wide representative body of the CRC. For most of their histories, Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, the only seminary of the CRC, were joined as institutions through a common Board of Trustees. The two institutions were legally separated in 1992 but still share some faculty and other significant resources, e.g., the Hekman Library, which houses the seminary library and jointly employs the seminary librarian, and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, which shares several staff persons with the seminary. The Lilly Vocation Project at the college has led to a renewed discussion between the two schools about their shared interest in the training of education ministry leaders.
The CRC has carefully evaluated the relationship between the church and the college and has provided recent feedback to the college. In 2002 the CRC’s Board of Trustees commissioned a comprehensive review of all agencies and institutions of the church, including Calvin College, to assess efficiencies and effectiveness. The Ministry Program Review Team of the CRC studied the college through a review of its mission documents and through interviews with and a survey of a sample of Calvin employees.48 The results of this review were shared with the college at the February 2003 meeting of Calvin’s Board of Trustees.49 Second, in the same year (2002) the CRC Ministries Administrative Council conducted a survey that asked church members to respond to questions about CRC agencies, including Calvin College.
Both evaluations showed that the relationship between the CRC and the college has fully recovered from the damages it suffered in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Ministry Program Review Team noted “a strong appreciation for a close connection between Calvin and the CRC” at the college, and commented that “[t]he people serving the CRC at Calvin express joy in serving and display a strong sense of vocation.”50 The college and church “are joined in a model of governance that is somewhat unusual” in American higher education, but the review team stated that it “appears to work well for both college and denomination,” and found many areas of shared concern between college and church, including the need to share scarce resources; to maintain the Reformed identity of the college in concrete ways while working at increasing its racial, ethnic, gender, and denominational diversity; and to address social issues of common concern such as homosexuality.51 Of church members who responded to the survey, 92 percent had a “positive overall opinion” of Calvin College.52 Asked whether they would “recommend that a family member or friend attend Calvin College,” 79 percent said yes, up from 70 percent in a 1992 survey and up from 65 percent in a survey done in 1987.53 Similarly, 71 percent said that the college was “vital to the CRC,” compared with 70 percent in 1997 and 64 percent in 1992.54
Probably no single initiative by itself restored the relationship. The college has worked intentionally at building regular communication with the administrative leadership of the church. As the college completed work on its current strategic plan, the administration prepared a report summarizing the relevance of the plan to its relationship with the CRC and the denomination’s own strategic planning.55 The college has submitted an effectiveness report with its annual budget to the Ministries Administrative Council of the CRC.56 As of April 2004, the college will report semi-annually. To reach out to the grassroots level, the college president sends semi-annual letters to all the pastors of the denomination and solicits feedback from them by means of a postcard that can be mailed back to the college.57 In 2002, when Cornelius Plantinga’s book, Engaging God’s World, was published for use in the required first-year course Developing a Christian Mind, the college mailed a copy to every minister (more than 1,000) in the Christian Reformed Church. Partly as a consequence of these efforts, the relationship between the college and the church is very strong, and the church’s confidence in the college appears to have been restored.
The Larger Christian Church
Probably the most important current college program of engagement with the larger Christian church community in the Grand Rapids area is Pathways to Possibilities (P2P), a Calvin College–local church urban youth initiative. The program grew out of Calvin’s discussions in the mid-1990s with area churches concerning the needs of at-risk youth.58 At that time, two college administrators, Steve Timmermans and Randal Jelks, sat down with the pastors of several churches in the area of Franklin Street and Neland Avenue in the inner southeast side of Grand Rapids and listened to their needs. The college hoped to help the pastors build programs to better meet the needs of the youth of their communities. Among those needs, as identified by the churches, was a need for their children to envision an alternative future for themselves, one that included going to college.
Begun in January 1997 with initial funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, P2P continues with corporate funding, including grants in recent years from the Herman Miller Foundation, Richard D. VanLunen Foundation, and Meijer Corporation. It is overseen by a steering committee made up of the pastors of the partner churches.
P2P is run from Calvin’s Office of Pre- College Programs, under whose large umbrella there are now five main interlocking components:
In addition to these main programs, the Office of Pre- College Programs administers a full calendar of events for area youth, mostly under the P2P umbrella, including computer instruction programs (Discovery Club Fellowship and Project Connect) and a conference on Martin Luther King, Jr., called “A Call to Action: MLK Young Leaders Weekend,” for area high school students.60
A Ford Foundation grant in 2000 supported the college’s work with three other church-related colleges—Goshen, Greenville, and Knoxville—to replicate the Pathways to Possibilities program with local churches at their sites.61 The Ford Foundation proposal was based on an evaluation of P2P in 1999.62
In addition to the evaluative instruments required by funding agencies,63 the college uses several means to assess its pre-college programs. The Entrada Scholars and STEP programs use student evaluations before and after enrollment, as well as focus group discussions with staff. The Campus Visit Program uses focus group discussions with church leaders who work to connect their church, youth, and families to the various opportunities. Another important, regularly tracked measure of these programs’ success is the percentage of students graduating from them who enroll in college.
The college conducted an overall evaluation of P2P in 2003, after the completion of its original funding stream. The evaluation, which specifically focused on the relationship between Calvin and its partner churches,64 was done by an internal evaluator, Rhae-Ann Booker, who is the director of pre-college programs at Calvin, and an external evaluator, Xiaofan Cai, a doctoral student from Western Michigan University. The evaluation showed that true collegechurch partnerships were not easy to achieve, requiring constant feedback and adjustment. A main criticism that arose in this evaluation was that while the program had developed out of the college’s engagement with area church pastors, it had drifted over time in the direction of what the churches regarded as a planned set of programs that the college presented to the churches and that the churches simply hosted. Churches needed to better integrate P2P events into existing programming aimed at youth. As a result of the evaluation, the steering committee and the college made some changes in the way the program is coordinated at the churches, making it possible for churches to organize events specific to their own congregations under the P2P umbrella. In a follow-up survey, the college invited partner churches to propose changes to the partnership arrangement that would be best suited to their individual congregational needs.65
Besides the programs under the P2P umbrella, Calvin also partners with local churches in other important efforts. One is the MCI/WorldCom program at local elementary schools, mentioned earlier in this chapter. Semi-annual reports for the pre-college programs are filed with the grant agencies that require regular evaluation in cooperation with the church pastors and school principals.66
Another important college-church partnership is the Parish Nurse Program, sponsored by the Nursing Department. A parish, or church, nurse is a registered nurse who works with a specific congregation to help church members maintain and improve their quality of health, body, mind, and spirit. The parish nurse interacts with church members and staff, people in the neighborhoods, and other health care providers, responding to health care concerns and empowering individuals to take a more active part in their health care management. Calvin College is a partner with the International Parish Nurse Resource Center. Calvin’s 36-hour Basic Parish Nurse Preparation Course was offered for the first time in the fall of 2003 as a continuing education program (but without college credit), and it will continue to be offered each semester. As of May 2004, 36 registered nurses have completed the course, and many are now working as parish nurses in the greater Grand Rapids area. After each session in the program an evaluation is conducted, and there is an overall course evaluation done at the conclusion.67
Engagement with College Alumni
The Calvin Alumni Association (CAA) was founded in 1907 and has grown to be a large and active organization with 53,000 members, a mailing list of nearly 39,500, and 34 chapters across North America. The alumni giving rate stands at 31 percent, slightly better than the average rate of Calvin’s peers (see Table 6.7).
Table 6.7 Peer Comparison of Annual Alumni Giving Rate
*Source: U.S. News, America’s Best Colleges 2004
The other oft-cited benchmark for alumni satisfaction is a college’s legacy student population, and in this area Calvin shines brightly. In 2001 a CCCU study listed Calvin’s legacy percentage for first-year students at 34.2 percent. The average percentage of peer institutions was 11 percent.68
The work of CAA is mentored by the college’s Office of Alumni and Public Relations in a unique interdependent relationship that is neither the independent model of large universities nor the dependent model of smaller institutions. Rather, CAA is partially funded by the college and allowed to do targeted fundraising and marketing on its own, giving the organization a true sense of ownership in assisting the college and servicing alumni. A major endeavor of the association is the production of The Calvin Spark, the alumni quarterly magazine, which is celebrating its fiftieth year of publication in 2004. An alumni board of 23 people from across the continent meets on campus three times annually to engage college faculty and staff in a variety of areas, from admissions to careers to faculty support.69 The 34 alumni chapters work within a framework of seven potential service areas, from organizing local events to raising scholarships to gathering referrals for the Admissions Office. CAA’s board has representation on the governing boards of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship and the Calvin Ecosystem Preserve, and on the Scholarships and Financial Aid Committee. As noted in chapter one, Calvin alumni also have a substantial stake in college governance through their representation on the Board of Trustees.
In engaging its alumni, the college has taken up challenges similar to those in its relations with other main constituents. The alumni association’s five-year strategic plan, which functionally is also the strategic plan of the college’s Office of Alumni and Public Relations, addresses these issues. As the alumni base has widened to include graduates who are not members of the Christian Reformed Church, the college has developed new strategies for making and keeping active connections with these alumni, integrating them into the ongoing life of the college while maintaining loyalty among older alumni who are plugged into the more traditional matrix of the college, CRC congregations and Christian schools in their communities. The strategic plan notes the need to reflect the increasing diversity of the college and to “reach out to an ever widening international audience.” The Alumni Relations and Public Relations offices and CAA connect to cities as well as suburbs—the traditional alumni strongholds—so that when, for example, Calvin’s January Interim course in business visits Wall Street, it makes contacts with New York City alumni. When Calvin’s Capella Choir and other musical groups go on tour, they now schedule dates not only in Christian Reformed churches but in other churches as well.70
In addition to reaching out, CAA does much inviting of alumni back to campus. Nine class reunions are held every year. Members of the 50-year class are invited back at Commencement. During that weekend they receive a certificate and a medallion, and at the Commencement ceremony itself, they sit together in the front of the Calvin Fieldhouse and are publicly recognized. Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are now invited to speak at Commencement. Across graduating class boundaries, alumni gather by professional field (e.g., lawyers, physicians, and graphic designers). All of these efforts aim at instilling the sense that although the community of Calvin graduates is very large and diverse, it still identifies closely with and is loyal to the college.71
CAA builds communal bonds in additional ways as well. It subsidizes the cost of the alumni newsletters published by the academic departments. It supports faculty scholarship through the Faculty Grant Program, which awarded $25,000 in grants in 2003-2004. The Graduate Lectureship Series brings a minority alum in graduate school to campus each fall to give an invited lecture. CAA’s board helps the college recruit minority faculty by supporting the Graduate Minority Fellowship Program administered by the Office of the Provost. CAA participates by naming the fellowships after minority alums. CAA awards perhaps $75,000 in total scholarships for legacy, chapter, service, minority, and international students. The association board makes several awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award, Outstanding Service Award, and Faith and Learning Award, the last of which honors an emerita or emeritus faculty member. The college also maintains engagement with alumni by electronic means, through a new alumni version of Moodle and an online edition of the alumni magazine Spark that provides additional links and resources.
Since 55 percent of the 53,000 Calvin alumni live in West Michigan, CAA devotes a great deal of special attention to this close and very loyal constituency. One of its newest outreach ventures is Calvin Around Town, a program of events begun in 2000 by the Grand Rapids chapter of CAA and partially underwritten by the Office of Alumni and Public Relations. This program provides alumni and friends of the college with an inside look at prominent city institutions and sites. Some recent events included:
Area alumni also participate in performing ensembles. The Calvin Alumni Choir is the most distinguished of these groups, with a 27-year history, eight CD recordings, a busy annual schedule of concerts in various venues—locally, nationally, and internationally. The choir toured the Netherlands and Belgium in the summer of 2004. The Calvin Alumni Orchestra, which is ten years old, performs twice each year. The Calvin Alumni Theater Company has a more ephemeral existence, having been revived several times to mount major performances. Its latest performance was in 2001, when it presented a modern rendition of Creation from a medieval mystery cycle. River City Improv, the alumni improvisational comedy team, has performed several times each year over the last decade. A Calvin College “legend,” Glenn Bulthuis, has been performing at the college and on the road with his band, the Tone Deafs, since 1977.72
Regional alumni are strong supporters of Calvin College sports teams. They attend all manner of competitions, from cross country meets to club hockey games and swimming and diving competitions. The main attraction for them, however, is men’s basketball. Calvin College regularly leads the nation in average home attendance for this NCAA Division III sport, and the regular season contests with Calvin’s arch-rival, Hope College, have been televised for three decades. Currently, these games are broadcast on the local PBS affiliate. Since 2001 broadcasts of the games have been sent by satellite to dozens of sites around the U.S. and Canada, so Calvin and Hope alumni can gather at various venues to enjoy them.73 CAA makes good use of these occasions as well as the road trips of various sports teams to organize alumni events and maintain contact with alumni across the continent.
Engagement with Parents
The college’s recognition of the importance of building strong relationships with the parents of students is prompting some new initiatives, with special attention to those parents who did not attend Calvin College and know little about its sponsoring denomination. Beginning in 1993, the college president began sending a letter to parents three times each year, always including a reply and feedback mechanism in the form of a response or comment card. Then, as noted in chapter two, a satisfaction survey conducted in 200374 convinced the Enrollment and External Relations Division of the need to do better at communicating with the parents of Calvin students and keeping them involved in the long-term life of the college.
The division significantly expanded its small Office of Parent Relations in 2003, believing that a strong parent organization can provide support to the Academic Affairs and Student Life divisions by assisting, for example, in issues arising from the transition to college. A full-time position of director of parent relations was created in 2003 to further these relationships. Calvin-Parents, distributed by the Office of Parent Relations, is a new e-mail bulletin for parents, grandparents, and family members of Calvin students. The bulletin is distributed two to four times per month and informs Calvin parents and family of campus events, programs, and news.75
Listening to Partners in Grand Rapids and West Michigan
Calvin’s leaders in developing community service projects gained some fresh insights on their work from a conference on community partnerships held at Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis in June 1997. The college then created a Community Partnerships Task Force and began to reorient outreach efforts toward a community partnership model. In 2001 the college received an Engaging Communities and Colleges seed grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to work on community partnerships and service-learning with the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism and its director, David May.76 The CIC grant then enabled the college and another partner, the Garfield Development Corporation, to apply for and receive a major grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Calvin@BurtonHeights initiative. This initiative follows the grant program guidelines in moving toward a paradigm of cooperation based on a mutual assessment of needs and capacities.77
The college uses several means of direct communication and feedback with its community partners. For example, the Community Listening Sessions at Calvin (conducted since March 2001) are meant to offer faculty, staff, and students opportunities to listen to and talk with community partners who play a significant role in education, anti-racism, and the life of the city.78
Several advisory councils have been created to facilitate open communication with community and church leaders. The first of these, the President’s Multicultural Advisory Council, provides opportunities for the college to strengthen collaboration with ethnic church communities. On the council are representatives from Grand Rapids, Miami, Los Angeles, Mississippi, and New Mexico. The council assists the president and the President’s Cabinet in seeking engagement in ways that are sensitive and responsive to these diverse communities.
In the fall of 2001 the Regional Council Program was established for the purpose of enlisting alumni and friends of the college to advise Calvin’s administration on programming and college advancement. Members are invited to serve by the president and chair of the Board of Trustees. The members’ career experiences, personal expertise, and professional achievement contribute to the work of the councils. The primary purpose of the councils is to carry out, on an ongoing basis, external review and recommendations on the programs and potential of the college. Twice each academic year, 40 council members (representing two councils), convene on campus to review departments, programs, and special activities. Council members also serve an important role as ambassadors for Calvin, promoting the college and its mission within their home regions. Periodically, the councils present reports to the Board of Trustees based on their observations of the work of the college. In his opening presentation to Regional Council members, President Byker said, “It is my hope that the Regional Council will help us look at ourselves more critically; serve as a ‘sounding board,’ allowing us to debate new ideas; provide an external/regional perspective; and offer advice, expertise, and valuable criticism.”79
Calvin’s Development Office also supports a Business Advisory Council, a Parents Council, an Engineering Advisory Council, and a Community Advisory Council of the Artist Series. The combined membership of these councils exceeds 60 people.80
Engagement with the local Dutch-American community, a traditionally strong constituency of the college, remains active. Three staff members of the college’s Heritage Hall Archives are on the board of the Dutch-American Historical Commission. One serves as an officer of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch-American Studies, Michigan Historical Society, CRC Historical Committee, CRC Sesquicentennial Committee, Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Ethnic Advisory Committee, and State Historic Preservation Review Board (including a term as president). Heritage Hall partners with the CRC and Calvin Theological Seminary.
Finally, there are two important Web resources that serve all these programs of engagement. One is the Calvin Experts Guide, designed to help the working press connect with Calvin experts who may be able to serve as a resource for news stories.81 Arranged alphabetically by topic, the guide is produced by the Media Relations Office and serves as a road map to the Calvin faculty. The other is the Resource Guide to Speakers and Programs produced by the Community Relations Office. Offered annually to churches, schools, and other civic groups,82 it describes Calvin faculty and staff members who are experts in their fields and who are available for schools, community groups, retreats, workshops, and conventions. It is also available in a PDF file on the Web.
Capacity and Commitment to Engagement
A major theme of Calvin’s An Expanded Statement of the Mission of Calvin College (ESM) is that the college forms a specific kind of community, a “ learning community.” The nature of the Calvin community grows out of “our educational tasks as well as the principle that learning is done communally.” Students and faculty participate collaboratively, but the community extends beyond the classroom, so that the college’s commitment to community affects not only its internal life but also the “way in which it forms partnerships to work with others toward common goals.”83 The ESM notes that the character of Calvin’s community-building initiatives springs from one hallmark of the Reformed tradition within historic Christianity—its emphasis on engagement with the world that aims to learn from it, transform it, and redeem it. Unlike some traditions within American Protestant Christianity, the Reformed tradition “does not see the world as a malevolent structure to be avoided; rather, it sees the world as God’s creation and as a community of which we are a part even as we work to reclaim it for Christ.”84
The college is committed to engagement with its constituent communities not as an end in itself, but as a means to work out its purpose as a Christian educational institution, and to bring justice, compassion, and right relationships to the world it serves. These concepts are given specific definition in the ESM as they relate to commitments of partnership with the college’s constituencies,85 and they frame the college’s continuing work in this regard.86
Calvin’s close relationship with the CRC has meant that for most of the college’s history, Calvin’s main constituencies have been associated with the denomination, from international agencies such as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee to individual local congregations. To fulfill its more encompassing vision for service in the world, Calvin has been working hard at broadening its community-building relationships. Yet the longer pattern of Calvin’s involvement has often overshadowed these more recent efforts and has sustained an assumption around West Michigan of a lack of interest on the part of the college. And to be fair, the ESM is largely silent on the college’s service to broader national and international religious realms, and it says very little about its relationship with the city of Grand Rapids.87
By contrast, the two most recent strategic plans have stressed a broadening pattern of service. 88 And over the past decade the college has made significant strides in making itself known and in offering its services to Grand Rapids and to the broader religious world. Several factors combined in the late 1980s and early 1990s to awaken the college to the need to develop diverse connections and serve diverse groups. At that time the college was seeing that an increasing number of its students and faculty were coming from non- CRC denominations. Meanwhile, as previously noted, a complex crisis of confidence was brewing between the college and its sponsoring denomination over the relationship between science—and independent scholarship more broadly—and the church, and over the role of women in church leadership. By the time of the 1994 self-study report, the college had embarked on a clear path through this crisis. The college was also reaching out to the world beyond the campus, in partnerships with alumni, church, and community leaders, and with national figures and organizations that were identified by their compatibility with the mission of the college.89 The “servant partnership” concept, developed by former president Anthony Diekema, provided an important road map for continuing and developing these initiatives,90 and during the past decade the college has dramatically expanded this work. Whether it proves to be sustainable, however, depends on how deeply community engagement and partnership become embedded in the curriculum.
Engagement Embedded in the Curriculum
At Calvin, excellence in teaching, distinction in scholarship, and quality in service are not seen as competing expectations but as interrelated goals. Faculty and staff are taking up the challenge of connecting students to the communities in which they live. This project begins immediately on the students’ arrival on campus, with a program called Streetfest, which sends first-year students out into the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids for a half-day service and learning experience during their first week of orientation. Groups of 12 or 24 work with organizations all over the city—many in the Burton Heights neighborhood—performing a variety of community service projects such as yard work, street cleaning, house painting, building repair, food pantry assistance, playground clean-up, ice cream socials at nursing homes, and the like. The program is sponsored by the Calvin Alumni Association.91
Academically Based Service-Learning
While Streetfest is designed to engage new students right away with the ideas and experience of service-learning, Academically Based Service-Learning (ABSL) takes it deep into the formal curriculum. The Calvin@Burton Heights Community Outreach Partnership Project is one of many ways in which faculty members engage service-learning as a pedagogical strategy. The college has encouraged these efforts through faculty development projects and workshops so that today, ABSL is embedded in the curriculum and is a respected pedagogical approach that enhances student learning.
The Service-Learning Center gives ABSL a director and a permanent place in college governance and planning. The Service-Learning Center itself is a venerable institution at Calvin. Launched as a student-led tutoring program called KIDS (Kindling Intellectual Desire in Students) in 1964, it evolved into Student Volunteer Service (SVS) in 1980. As SVS, the program continued its emphasis on inner-city education but expanded to include assistance in local food pantries, nursing homes, and domestic violence shelters. Calvin students became valued volunteers in hospitals and social service organizations. Later, SVS became an official program in the Student Life Division. In 1991 Calvin joined Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities with a state organization, Michigan Campus Compact, whose purpose is to increase student involvement in and institutional support for community service. A faculty study committee followed, and in 1993 SVS was transformed into the Service-Learning Center (SLC). With a record of 40 years of work, the SLC has established strong relationships with many community organizations in a spirit of partnership that demonstrates what it means for Calvin students and faculty to be “agents of renewal” in the world. 92
The SLC has a staff of five persons, including a director, associate director, community partnerships liaison, and two support staff persons. It coordinates the efforts of faculty members seeking to integrate service-learning into their courses. It also provides information and referrals for students and others who wish to get involved in the local community, and it works to develop student leaders as residence hall–based community partnership coordinators, spring break leaders, blood drive coordinators, coordinators for the America Reads tutoring program, and others.93 Currently, more than 1,800 students, and one-third of the Calvin faculty, participate in a variety of service-learning projects each year.
Other Curricular Structures
ABSL and the Service-Learning Center are not the only examples of community engagement embedded in the college curriculum.
Calvin’s largest program within the Student Life Division, the Career Development Office, works with academic departments to arrange internships and practicum experiences. Internships provide valuable learning opportunities for students while providing a flexible, creative, and cost-effective temporary work force for employers. To participate, students must first attend an internship training session, which covers the details of finding an internship, including insider tips from employers regarding resumes, interview skills, and networking. As discussed in chapter three, these internships engage 1,000 students per year in employment-like settings and put the college into working relationships with more than 200 corporations and non-profit agencies each year.94
In addition to these formal curricular initiatives, community engagement is an important component of several of Calvin’s research institutes. The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship provides expertise and grant support and brings traveling workshops out to churches and ministries across North America.95 The Henry Institute provides research consultation services and helps coordinate internships in state, local, and federal governmental agencies.96 The Spoelhof Business Institute exists to connect the campus to the business community, providing funding for student business internships and faculty externships in business settings.97
Administrative Structures of Support for Programs of Ongoing Engagement
As the programs of community engagement have grown during the past ten years, the college has also begun to address the issue of the building a structure to coordinate these programs. Currently, the programs are only incompletely coordinated and integrated across the campus. Take student internships, for instance. First- and second-year teacher education internships are arranged through the Service-Learning Center, and records of these are housed there. But outside of the teacher education program, several other internship programs exist at the college. The Career Development Office of the Student Life Division coordinates many of them, but each professional program— nursing, social work, engineering—maintains its own internship program. Many other academic departments have small numbers of internships available, such as the History Department’s museum studies internship, and these are often managed by individual faculty members or departmental committees. There is no single office in the college that keeps records of all of these programs. Thus it is entirely possible that several academic departments and programs at Calvin may separately but simultaneously place interns at the same site in Grand Rapids without any awareness of the others. And the same issue is encountered in other programs of engagement.
In accordance with its most recent strategic plans, the college has in the past decade formed several new entities to try to gain better awareness and coordination of these efforts.
Calvin is involved as a significant partner in a variety of community programs of engagement, as this chapter has shown. During the past decade Calvin programs have proliferated and spread out in serving and partnering with constituencies. During the next decade the college needs to concentrate on consolidation, organization, and sustainability. Further, the college needs to find a balance between the kind of unit-specific, bubble-up initiatives that have often characterized initial engagement with communities and the processes of regular communication, feedback, and evaluation. The partnerships should not be over-regulated, lest the true spirit of engagement be broken. Nevertheless, the college needs to develop a clearinghouse so that it remains accountable to its educational mission, so that its partners are served by clear and mutual understanding of the college’s interests, and so that the college and its external partners have a realistic understanding of the college’s capacity for ongoing engagement. Feedback mechanisms exist and are in operation for many of these programs, but these mechanisms are stronger and more regular in some programs than in others. This unevenness makes it difficult to have a comprehensive view of where the college is effective and where it is not. One way of gaining all-college coordination of engagement efforts might be to use the Calvin@BurtonHeights project as a model. It is an umbrella program that has enabled the college to consolidate initiatives in a number of areas, orienting them toward a consistently focused direction. Other programs, however, take us in new directions. There needs to be a balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces, certainly. But in the past decade Calvin has seen much more outward than inward thrust.
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