Calvin College is not a large institution of higher learning, and its main purpose is the education of undergraduates, not the advancement of knowledge via research and postgraduate education. Even so, Calvin has a strong record of encouraging and supporting scholarship, and it is one of the leading institutions among North American Christian colleges and universities for promoting rigorous inquiry from Christian perspectives. Calvin is home now to a half-dozen institutes and study centers, the oldest of which, the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship, was founded some thirty years ago and is today an endowed program for scholarly research and publication with dozens of volumes produced under its sponsorship.
Calvin’s faculty has a growing investment in studies pertaining to Christianity in the global south and east. Beyond the experts who planned the Nagel Institute is a critical mass of teacher-scholars, perhaps as many as one quarter of the 300 total full-time faculty, who have interests along these lines. Calvin’s curriculum reflects these interests, most notably with concentrations in international development studies, African and African diaspora studies, and Asian studies.
Calvin’s students, too, are increasingly “world Christian” in their outlook. The college ranks fourth in the nation among baccalaureate colleges and universities in the number of students who study abroad. In February 2006, Calvin students organized a Faith and International Development Conference that attracted 350 participants, mostly students, from across the continent. So the Nagel Institute’s planners judge that Calvin College will provide a supportive and stimulating home, and that the Institute can be of concrete benefit to its on-campus constituency in an area of great local interest.
The initial, endowing benefactors of the Institute are Doug and Lois Nagel, alumni and friends of Calvin College. The Nagels have been supporters of front-line Christian missions for many years, and they understand the strategic needs of rising Christian movements in the global south and east. They recognize that if the Gospel is going to go deep and be transformative in the world’s varied cultures, it needs to be applied to all realms of life, and this kind of discipleship and witness takes much thought. There is an intellectual and cultural mission to engage, worldwide, and by their endowing gift, Doug and Lois acknowledge and support this strategic mission. With perhaps a few exceptions, we do not expect that work in this field will attract major grants from foundations, and support from government funders is unlikely as well. So the Nagel Institute will need to find individuals and families who, like the Nagels, see the strategic value of this field of endeavor and are willing to invest in it.
We will engage in a variety of projects and ongoing programs in order to pursue our three main aims. These might be broadly described as research, communications, networking, and making scholarly resources available. The Nagel Institute’s activities may include
- mounting team research projects;
- hosting or providing other short-term support for individual scholars;
- sponsoring public conferences and invitational seminars;
- enabling access to information for research, teaching, and journalism;
- facilitating scholarly networking and communication;
- teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, and
- producing publications.
This list is meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive or exclusive. The Nagel Institute’s purpose will drive it to be collaborative and to seek equitable and effective partnerships with other centers for Christian thought and cultural engagement, beyond the North Atlantic region and within it. This web site will be our principal medium for networking and making information available. Please do check it often to see what--and how--we are doing. Your comments, advice, support, and prayers, are always welcome.
Joel A. Carpenter