From its beginning Calvin College has been governed by a clear mission. During its earliest years that mission was to train the youth of the church for callings in the ministry and in education. Soon the mission broadened to training people, by means of a liberal arts curriculum and according to the Reformed tradition, for a life of Christian service in any vocation. Fundamentally, that task remains a primary mission of the college. So stated, it has the apparent elegance of simplicity.
If, in the early years, the college had but one or two wagons hitched to that vision, it now seems to entail a whole caravan of educational programs and objectives. Simplicity has expanded into complexity. The student body and, to a lesser degree, the college faculty have grown increasingly diverse in traditions, perspectives, and talents. Similarly, the programs of study have sprawled from the liberal arts core into an array of professional interests. The dramatic changes of the college over recent decades call now for an expanded statement of mission, one that recognizes the tradition that has shaped Calvin College , one that acknowledges our contemporary position as a comprehensive liberal arts college, and one that guides our engagement with the future.
Without such a mission statement, we as a college community often respond to the mere pressure of needs, adjusting educational vision to pragmatic exigencies. If we have no clear sense of direction, we tend to become victims of new programs and of educational, social, and ethical trends rather than to be the formulators of them. Without such a mission statement, a college stumbles into the future, steered occasionally by accreditation and review agencies but without an internal compass.
After the rapid physical expansion and curricular change in the college that accompanied the move to the Knollcrest campus, the need for a statement of mission has grown more pronounced. While we were once united by a set of stated beliefs and unstated assumptions, that unity itself became more tenuous in the face of rapid change. Since the early 1960s, five major documents approved by the faculty and board have responded to the need for an expanded statement that would unify the college's mission. Christian Liberal Arts Education (1965) provided a vision of the educational mission for our current curriculum. "Professional Education and the Christian Liberal Arts College " (1973) stated our responsibility to professional programs. The "Report of the ad hoc Committee on Adult and Continuing Education" (1977), the report on "Adult and Continuing Education at Calvin" (1983), and "Graduate Education: A Report on Advanced Degrees and Scholarship" (1990) provide guidelines for the college's responsibility to continuing education and to graduate education.
Such statements as we have, however, have occurred in special contexts, all addressing similar themes, all making similar assumptions, but none governed by a larger statement that uniformly directs the efforts of each. The present need, then, is for a statement of mission expansive enough to recognize our particular religious and educational history, to clarify our position as an educational institution in the context of higher education, to direct our tasks of scholarship and education, and to shape our understanding of what it means to be a community.
An expanded statement of mission intends to establish directions, not to implement programs. But it is essential that those directions recognize the fundamental premises that have formed and guided this college from its outset. To promote and follow a transforming vision, one that grants new direction, is not to forsake the heritage that has sustained us. Rather, it is to embrace that tradition, to seek courage and sustenance from it, as we look for new ways to effect our calling as a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity.
Contributors to the October 1992 edition:
- James D. Bratt
- Jeanette R. Bult De Jong
- Peter M. Harkema
- John H. Timmerman
- Gordon L. Van Harn
- Glenn D. Weaver
- Lambert P. Zuidervaart
The Expanded Statement of Mission was revised in 2004 specifically for the purpose of modifying the language of the document to be more inclusive and culturally sensitive. The 2004 revisions did not attempt to update other aspects of the document.
Contributors to the February 2004 revised edition:
- Claudia D. Beversluis
- James D. Bratt
- Joel A. Carpenter
- Michelle R. Loyd-Paige
- Edward Miller
- Stephanie L. Sandberg
- Elizabeth A. Vander Lei
Note: Following are abbreviations and titles of four major Calvin College documents referenced in this report and cited in the bibliography:
- CLAE--Christian Liberal Arts Education
- PECLAC--Professional Education in the Christian Liberal Arts College
- ACE--Adult and Continuing Education at Calvin College
- GRADS--Graduate Education: A Report on Advanced Degrees and Scholarship