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Small groups promote understanding, community

Like in this unrelated group offered by the Broene Counseling Center, students have the opportunity to learn and grow with each other and with counseling staff. Photo courtesy Calvin College.
Like in this unrelated group offered by the Broene Counseling Center, students have the opportunity to learn and grow with each other and with counseling staff. Photo courtesy Calvin College.

Small groups focusing on gender, sexuality, identity and other pertinent issues facing men and women will gather across campus this spring.

For years, student life has been hosting a variety of small groups through Broene Counseling Center, MSDO and campus ministries which have focused on the complex issues facing students. These groups have offered a secure place where students can discuss those sensitive issues in an environment where they can feel safe and mentored.

“The groups exist to help students grow more fully into the people God has designed them to be,” added chaplain Aaron Winkle, who is leading one of the men’s groups.

These small groups have had an impact on the students and faculty that have participated, according to leaders, which is evidenced through the high attendance rates and need for additional groups each year.

“Sadly, the Wednesday group [for women] is already full with a significant wait list, though we are considering adding another group,” said mentoring coordinator Lisa Jousma, who has been spearheading this spring’s small group opportunities and is co-leading a women’s group with Julia Smith.

“My hope for the group is to provide a safe place for female students to examine their beliefs about what it means to be a woman, and how those beliefs have been shaped by our families, friends, media and faith. It’s a place to discuss relating to other women, dating, marriage, singleness and sex,” added Jousma, who has had a long history with these small groups.

The idea for these groups was spawned by former biology professor Jill Tatum when she formed a group she titled “Feeling Called, or Just Pulled?” It was through this group that Jousma learned just how important this type of dialogue and community was.

“Having recently become a mother and seeking to juggle a part-time job here at Calvin along with my roles as mother and wife, I was excited to see that this kind of forum existed for our students to discuss some of the complexities of being a woman and the various roles we play. As a student, I was confident that men and women were equal, and it wasn’t until marriage and children that I really bumped up against some of the complexities females face that males typically do not.”

Thanks to Jousma and many different departments on campus, these small group opportunities have expanded to multiple small groups for women and men and continue to grow.

“There was a demand by our male Calvin students for this group, so I started a second group. Our goal is to get men to talk about specific topics about what it is to be a man as it can be confusing in our culture, faith, family, and media, said Richard Baez who is also co-leading one of the men’s groups this spring.

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