Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

McGregor Research Program: Fellows, Faculty & Projects (2004)

Student Fellow
Faculty Mentor
Research Project
Bethany Keeley

Kathi Groenendyk
Communication Arts & Sciences

Contested Meanings of Stewardship
P. Marinus Koole Debra Freeberg
Communication Arts & Sciences
Theatre and Christianity
Jason Martzke Evert Van Der Heide
Economics & Business
Maintaining Business Activity and Jobs in the City of Kentwood, Michigan
Kari Slotsema Shirley Roels
Lilly Vocation Program
The Vocational Leadership of the Laity
Melissa Smith Bruce Berglund
Religion and Culture in Prague: 1890-1930
Mandy Suhr Elizabeth Vander Lei and
Dean Ward
Designing and Publishing a Writing Textbook
Nathan Sytsma James K. A. Smith
The Violence of Belief: Democratic Peace Theory's Commitment to Secularization
Justin William Van Geest J. Brooks Kuykendall
Hands-on Musicology: Editing the Music of William Walton
Joy Van Marion

Jeff Bouman, Service Learning Center
Don DeGraaf, HPERDS
Mark Mulder, Sociology

Exploring Intentional Christian Community at Calvin College
Brian VanderLugt Kevin Dougherty
Church Closings: Estimating the Rate and Reasons

Religion and Culture in Prague, 1890-1930
Bruce Berglund, History Department [return to top]

This is a project of religious and cultural history, focusing on the intersection of the arts (art, architecture, sculpture, literature) and Christian faith and thought in turn-of-the-century and interwar Prague. The study concentrates on an architect named Joze Plecnik, who worked in Prague from 1910 to 1927. Plecnik was an ethnic Slovene, but he gained fame as an architect in Vienna at the turn of the century and was hired to teach at the university in Prague. Plecnik is recognized today by architectural historians as one of the most important European architects of the early 20th Century, and the buildings he designed in Prague are regarded as some of his greatest accomplishments. Plecnik was also a devout Catholic. His faith was essential to his philosophy of architecture, and critics and fellow architects of the time (including non-believers) recognized the importance of faith to his work. My research examines the response of these Czechs and Germans in Prague to Pecnik's designs and to his faith-centered philosophy of architecture. In addition, my research looks at Plecnik’s contacts with other artists in Prague and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, both Christians and non-Christians, in order to better understand his place in cultural circles of the times.

Student Contributions:
The student will contribute to this project by researching secondary and primary sources pertaining to Plecnik’s work, architecture and the arts in Prague, and the connection of religion to the arts at the time. I will work with the student in identifying the relevant themes in the sources and discuss with the student how that material applies to the research project.

Student Qualifications:

The student must:

  • have proficient reading ability in German, Czech, Croatian, or Slovene language;
  • be willing and able to spend hours in the library reading primary sources (newspapers, architectural and art journals, letters), some of which might be on microfilm, as well as historical studies of the times (books and scholarly articles);
  • be a careful reader and writer of notes, someone able to write clear summaries of the sources and (if requested) reliable translations of some key passages that we will identify;
  • and be self-motivated and self-directed.

The student should:

  • have an interest in European cultural history, architecture, or religion.
Exploring Intentional Christian Community at Calvin College
Jeff Bouman, Service Learning Center [return to top]
Don DeGraaf, HPERDS
Mark Mulder, Sociology

How has the Calvin experience connected the mind, heart, and hands in a meaningful way for both students and society? This study explores this question by examining intentional Christian communities associated with Calvin between 1965 and 2004; the Worden Street Community, and Project Neighborhood. Several faculty-owned houses co-operated on Worden Street during the 1970s to build authentic Christian community; and since 1997, Calvin has offered housing in three Grand Rapids neighborhoods designed to facilitate both internal and external Christian community. McGregor Fellows will conduct and transcribe 40 interviews with former residents of these communities, and examine the impact on their post-Calvin lives.

Purpose of the Study:
The purpose of this study is two-fold. First to examine the effectiveness of two distinct intentional Christian communities in connecting the Mind, Heart, and Hands portrayed in the figure above. Second to identify the long-term impacts perceived by residents of living in both the Worden Street Community and Project Neighborhood.


  1. Develop a method (instrument) to understand the intentional Christian community experience through the eyes of former residents.
  2. Identify the long-term impacts of living in a intentional Christian community.
  3. Identify what elements of the experience that facilitate positive impacts of the intentional Christian experience.
  4. Develop strategies to assist the development of positive experiences related to intentional Christian community.
  5. Compare/contrast the two contemporary Christian intentional communities at Calvin (Worden Street & Project Neighborhood) with other historical student Christian communities of the late 1800s.

Student Contributions:

Assisting in identifying the sample for the study (tracking down addresses, calling potential subjects and asking them to be involved in the study);
• Conducting interviews;
• Transcribing interviews;
• Analyzing data (assisting in the searching for common themes);
• Assisting in the writing of one to two articles;
• Assisting in presenting the results at a regional and/or national conference

Benefits to the student

This project will offer a student an opportunity to work closely with professors from three different disciplines in an interdisciplinary study. The student will be involved in all aspects of designing and implementing a research study as well as presenting and writing up the results of this study. Students will also have the opportunity to examine the importance and potential of intentional Christian community as well as document two important aspects of the Calvin experience (both past and present).

Qualifications of Student Researcher:

Good social skills (able to communicate with subjects both face to face and over the phone)
• Good organizational skills
• Self directed once given a task to complete
• Good computer skills (i.e. word processing, willingness to learn new computer programs – e.g. Nvivo)
Church Closings: Estimating the Rate and Reasons
Kevin Dougherty, Sociology and Social Work [return to top]

How many churches close each year? For thirty years or more, a common assumption is that approximately one percent of U.S. churches shut their doors for the last time each year. Yet, there appears to be no sound basis for this statistic. No one really knows how many churches close annually. This research will seek to remedy this oversight. By assembling congregational data from an array of denominations, the research will attempt to estimate a failure rate of U.S. churches and look to identify common conditions under which churches close.

Student Contributions:
The enterprising student will bear the responsibility for the development and outcome of the research. Professor Dougherty will guide literature review and then participate in statistical analysis and writing. The student will manage the process of data collection independently and have substantial ownership in the final stages of analysis and writing.

As background, student and professor will review sociological research relevant to church decline and closing. The student will spend the first week reading selected book chapters and journal articles identified in collaboration with the professor. Reading may continue throughout the summer, but it will represent a small component of the student's time.

The majority of the student's time will be spent in assembling congregational data from denominations in the United States. Analysis will depend upon information from the same congregations collected from at least two points in time. For denominations like the Church of the Nazarene and the Southern Baptist Convention, annual congregational data are available from denominational websites or the American Religion Data Archive (www. The student will download relevant data from denominations and convert them into SPSS data files. For denominations that do not have congregational data publicly available online, the student will contact the denominations directly. This will require the student to present herself/himself in a competent, professional manner. It will also demand meticulous record keeping skills to track contacts and note any stipulations placed upon use of denominational data. Data collection represents approximately half of the student's summer responsibilities.

Once data are collected, student and professor will jointly conduct analysis using SPSS statistical software and produce a written summary of their findings.

Summary List of Student Responsibilities:

Library Research: 10%
Data collection (from websites and through denominational contacts): 50%
Statistical analysis: 20%
Writing: 20%

Theatre and Christianity: a two-part project--Theatre web archive site and participation in the CCCU Theatre Discipline seminar
Debra Freeberg, Communication Arts & Sciences [return to top]

Theatre archive web site: this project involves the collection and transfer of published and unpublished articles, conference papers, addresses, interviews, and images related to the subject of theatre and the Christian faith, particularly theatre in the Christian community. In the first phase of the project, a theatre archive website will be created and data entered--culled from professional theatres, individual artists, and organizations like Christians in Theatre Arts and participants. Moreover, the student will conduct specific research regarding the CRC church and the theatre. The student will present their preliminary research to the CCCU theatre seminar in July. Outcomes may also include a co-authored paper for Christian Scholars Review and their finished article included in a book about Theatre and the Christian Church, co-edited by D. Freeburg and Dr. Theresa Ter Haar of Trinity Christian University. The student will also work as a seminar assistant in the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities' Theatre Discipline workshop at Calvin College in July 2004.

Student Contributions: The student should be self-motivated, savvy with computers, adept at Web design programs such as Fireworks and Dreamweaver, and be able to relate to people in the conduct of interviews, and able to think and write extremely well.

Contested Meaning of Stewardship
Kathi Groenendyk, Communication Arts & Sciences [return to top]

After Lynn White Jr.'s influential article "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," many environmentalists linked Christianity to our Western culture's abuse of nature. Christians, in response to these accusations and their own desire to treat God's creation wisely, reexamined Biblical approaches to environmental action. Many Christians embraced the term "stewardship" to define a Christ-like attitude and set of actions. Yet this term and its implied actions have varied between groups and over time, confusing lay people and complicating Christian environmentalists' work with non-Christians. I plan to examine the term "stewardship" from a rhetorical perspective, using the theory of the ideograph to explicate the historical development and current use of the term. To understand how an ideograph is used in public argumentation, the critic must identify the ideograph's current relationship to other related terms. Through understanding the historical and current uses of "stewardship", and its interplay with other key environmental ideographs, we can identify the ideological uses of the term, how "stewardship" defines certain groups, and what terms would best prompt environmental action.

Student Contributions: The student will assist in locating historical and recent texts that use the term "stewardship." The student will help determine which texts have made the most impact in Christian and public discussions of stewardship and then, through Calvin's Library, will assist in locating these influential texts. Once the texts are in hand, the student will read through the documents and provide a short analysis about the text's themes and how "stewardship" is used to define a certain type of environmental awareness and action. The student will also assist in drafting a historical overview of the term "stewardship" and in identifying the recent terms used in conjunction with "stewardship".

Breakdown of activity:

Library Research:
Analyzing Documents:
Historical Outline:
Identifying Terms:


Hands-on Musicology: Editing the Music of William Walton
J. Brooks Kuykendall, Music [return to top]

Composers aren't perfect: they almost always have second--or third--thoughts. Revisions may be prompted by practical, technical, musical or dramatic reasons. Sometimes revisions are fairly small; sometimes they are massive. Reconstructing the compositional process is essential in musicological studies, but it can be messy. In what sequence were the changes made? For this project, we will prepare a new critical text of two orchestral works by English composer William Walton (to be published by Oxford University Press as part of a complete William Walton Edition). We will then go further to examine the larger significance of compositional revisions. This project will open a student's eyes to the wider world of "behind the scenes" in the music industry.

Student Contributions: Most of the work (perhaps 55-60%) is essentially critical proof-reading, which means comparing every detail--every note, every articulation, every dynamic marking--of every source in order to establish what is the best text to publish. The process is not mindlessly mechanical, but requires a great deal of critical judgment. Another 15-20% of the project is research. While the musical sources are readily available to us for comparison, what other sources might impinge upon our understanding of the works? A student can assist greatly in tracking down and analyzing such sources. The remaining 20-30% of the time would be absorbed by another collaborative project, depending on the interest of the student, as well as with attending the weekly McGregor student colloquia.

Student Qualifications: An assistant for this project must, of course, have a fluent reading knowledge of music. (Any student studying music at the college level should be qualified; there is no need for the student to have had any particular level of music theory, although theoretical training would make for better informed judgments.) Any student considering going on to graduate study in musicology might benefit most from working on this project. Students considering further study in another discipline of the arts or humanities might find this an engaging introduction to critical methods. This project requires no particular background in music history, but it does require the inquiring, skeptical mindset of the historian; the editor must never be willing to trust a source at its face value. Beyond this, the student must have great patience and diligence.

The Vocational Leadership of the Laity
Shirley Roels, Lilly Vocation Project [return to top]

To be effective, healthy and sustainable, the Christian church needs strong lay leaders who complement ordained pastors. However, churches and their related denominations/associations are limited in their knowledge about attracting, structuring, educating and sustaining quality lay leadership. This study will investigate the pathways through which lay leadership can be more effectively cultivated. It will involve a literature review of church systems theory, the gathering of existing research on lay leadership from a variety of denominations and associations, and structured telephone interviews with a selected cross-section of pastors and lay leaders. The outcome of this research project, minimally, will be an article for publication and a session at the 2005 Worship Symposium of the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship.

Student Contribution: The student will provide assistance in identifying books, articles and other studies that develop systems theory in relationship to the ever-changing configuration of the Christian church. A student research assistant would help me in two ways, first by identifying and organizing sources of such material; and second, by reading and summarizing the context discovered. The initial reading will include a review of back issues of the periodical Congregation and the several short books that explore congregations as systems. Second, the student research assistant would solicit information about ongoing studies of lay leadership within various denominations and church associations. For example, within the CRCNA 2002 denominational survey, there are several questions about the nature of lay leadership. A student could document and organize the relevant survey responses and compare such results to those from other denominations and associations. Identifying, summarizing and comparing knowledge about lay leadership from these sources will provide a much broader picture about the current situation, future needs and the connection between systems theory and church practice. Third, to provide a closer analysis of lay leadership over the life cycle of such leaders, the student would interview by phone a selected population of church leaders.

Distribution of Activities:

  1. Review church systems literature (25%)
  2. Gather and review existing denomination/association research (25%)
  3. Develop and conduct phone interview research (50%)
    --Establish the research population and interview structure (10%)
    --Conduct the phone interviews (25%)
    --Analyze interview results (15%)

Student Qualifications:

  1. A strong interest in the future of Christian congregations as healthy, sustainable and effective ones.
  2. Curiosity about the connections between church ecclesiology and practice.
  3. Some background in related social sciences, psychology, sociology or management/leadership theory.
  4. An interest in social science research methods and results.
  5. Skills in summarizing written texts, structuring and analyzing data.
  6. Strong oral communication skills, both speaking and listening.
The Violence of Belief: Democratic Peace Theory's Commitment to Secularization
James K. A. Smith, Philosophy [return to top]

The theory of "democratic peace" is often cited as "the closest thing we have to an empirical law in the study of international relations." Informing American foreign policy for the past two administrations, one aspect of this program has been under-theorized: the relationship of democratic peace theory to the project of secularization. This project will investigate the ways in which the theory is predicated on a confidence in secularity as securing peace and therefore parallels "postmodern" critiques of religious violence. Both feed into the increased secularization of the public sphere based on assumptions about the "violence" of particular, determinate religious confessions.

Student Contributions: The project will require the student to be engaged in a number of different kinds of activities, from the "leg-work" of locating and copying articles, to high-level reflection on theoretical questions--all in regular consultation with the professor. In particular, the summer's research would involve the following:

  1. Read an article provided by the supervision professor (SP) and then meet with him in order to be oriented within the basics of "democratic peace theory" in general, and specifically with the hypothesis, methods and strategies of the project at hand. (5%)
  2. Undertake database research on democratic peace theory across a range of disciplines. Generate an initial bibliography to be reviewed by SP in order to establish an agenda for research. (10%)
  3. Locate and copy articles and books from the bibliography. This will include downloading and printing electronic files where available, photocopying from journals and books, and securing those resources not owned by Calvin's library through ILL. Meet with SP to prioritize resources. (10%)
  4. Carefully read articles and books as directed by SP then write 2-3 page summaries of the core argument of each, with particular attention to themes outlined in the research agenda. Regular meetings with SP to discuss findings. (40%)
  5. With SP, establish overall findings vis-a'vis the guiding research hypotheses. Generate a draft report of the findings that will later be incorporated into an article on the topic. If absence of explicit discussion of religion and secularization is confirmed, establish agenda for teasing out the implicit assumptions about such in the literature. (20%)
  6. Together with SP, draft a paper for presentation of both research findings and critique of democratic peace theory's assumptions regarding the correlations between religion/violence and secularity/peace. (15%)

Student Qualifications:

  1. An interest in the topic and attendant issues of politics, religion, and global violence.
  2. An ability to quickly get "up to speed" with new knowledge.
  3. Initiative to work independently but also the ability to work as a team where required.
  4. Background in philosophy, political science, or religion, preferably with at least one course completed in each area.
  5. Familiarity with research databases at Calvin College (though training can be provided for specific databases).
  6. A good "feel" for the Hekman Library (both physical and digital): knowing where to find databases on the website, knowing where to locate e-journals and hard-bound journals on the shelf, etc.
  7. Critical reading skills, including the ability to read across different disciplines and genres and discern weaknesses in an argument.
  8. Strong writing skills, in particular being able to digest an article then write a summary exposition of the argument. This requires the ability to condense and "translate".
  9. A spirit of engagement in order to be a sounding board for the SP.
  10. An interest in presenting research at a conference or symposium.
  11. Solid facility with English. Since most of this literature is in English, no foreign languages are required.

Outcomes: the fruit of this research will be disseminated in several forms:

  1. Findings presented at a regional conference such as the Midwest Meeting of the American Academy of Religion or Calvin's Symposium on Religion and Politics. Ideally, the student would be involved as co-presenter.
  2. Some findings will be taken up in SP's forthcoming Sabbatical project and ensuing book (Holy Wars and Democratic Crusades). The student's contributions will be duly acknowledged.
  3. A separate article on this question to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, based on the drafts and reports from the summer research. The student would hopefully be the article's co-author.
Maintaining Business Activity and Jobs in the City of Kentwood, Michigan
Evert Van Der Heide, Economics and Business
[return to top]
Manufacturing job losses and business closings have had a significantly negative impact on the business climate in West Michigan especially. The Grand Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area had a higher percentage of its labor force in manufacturing than any other MSA in the U.S. New awareness of business transfers to southern states, and to low-wage countries creates a greater impetus for local governments and agencies to focus efforts on retaining businesses, since relatively little can be done to reduce direct business costs. (Taxes and regulations for their use, for instance, are controlled at the state level.)

Cities like Kentwood work through their Economic Development Commissions (EDC) to evaluate regulations and restrictions that may discourage business from locating locally. Mayor Richard Root of Kentwood has gone as far as to say that his city is restructuring its relationship with its businesses. Kentwood, he says, is “open for business”. A special Tax Abatement Taskforce will investigate the need for more generous tax abatements for the relatively few manufacturers that apply for relief under State Act 195. Kentwood’s EDC is responsible for advising the city on other issues that may attract and maintain businesses of all sorts to the city.

Student Contributions:

The student who works on this project will work closely with Kentwood’s EDC to gather data relevant to the EDC’s work. The student will be part of all aspects of a survey of businesses to determine business attitudes and opinions about working with city officials in Planning, Engineering, the Treasury Department, Fire Safety and other departments. At the conclusion of the survey, the student will write an analytical report that summarizes the current business climate and identifies significant relationships. The report will also make recommendations to the EDC for its consideration. Prior to designing the survey, the student will conduct a literature review and find out what other communities have done to determine business opinion of local government services. As time permits, the student will gather demographic and economic data of the City to help the EDC in its promotional efforts for the City. These tasks will be supervised by Lisa Golder of Kentwood’s Planning Department, and Professor Van Der Heide.

  • Applicants for this project should be business or economic majors with interest and aptitude in survey research. Knowledge of basic statistics is important.
Designing and Publishing a Writing Textbook
Elizabeth Vander Lei and Dean Ward, English [return to top]

This project will allow a student to experience the publication process from the inside--as part of an editorial team composing a textbook on writing across the curriculum (WAC). The McGregor Fellow will work with the primary editors and the contributors (Calvin professors and students), helping them describe and demonstrate what characterizes good writing in various disciplines.

Student Contributions: Specifically, the McGregor Fellow will read in rhetorical and WAC theory and then, as an assisting editor, bring that knowledge to the following tasks:

  1. Help with revisions of chapter introductions, commentaries, and exercises;
  2. Participate in a week-long set of meetings of the editorial team;
  3. Help in editing final copy for publication;
  4. Help with format design; and
  5. Work directly with student authors to help them compose and edit their contributions to the book*.

*This will be the primary task for the student fellow.


Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nulla ut nibh.


Lorem ipsum dolor sitamet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Nulla ut nibh.