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May 31, 2001

Summer Seminars
Philip Bess

A busy summer is on tap for the Calvin Seminars in Christian Scholarship program. A quartet of four- and five-week-long seminars highlight the 2001 schedule.

One of the most unusual will be led by Philip Bess, a Principal with Thursday Architects in Chicago who also works as a professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs.

Bess has a bachelor's degree in philosophy, a master's degree from Harvard's Divinity School in church history and a master's in architecture from the University of Virginia School of Architecture. His seminar is titled: "New Urbanism and Communities of Faith."

Bess has West Michigan connections. He has spoken on the virtues of the traditional city for the Grand Valley Metro Council. He also was a consultant for the Ada Township Master Plan. Bess also is a baseball park expert. He was coordinator of the Save Fenway Park campaign and has consulted for such organizations as the Florida Marlins and the city of Milwaukee on new ballparks. He wrote "Old Ballparks Are Better" for ESPN SportsZone and has been quoted in numerous media stories on stadium projects. He also has worked on the O'Hare Airport Master Plan and the United Airlines Terminal in Chicago.

The students in Bess' seminar also have wide interests and include, for the first time in a Summer Seminars program, non academics. Among the students will be faculty members at such schools as Calvin, Savannah College of Art & Design and Notre Dame, representing such disciplines as philosophy, Biblical Studies, Social Sciences, sociology and theology. But the class also will include representatives from Grand Rapids organizations The Dwelling Place, Inner City Christian Federation and Development Advisors Equity Corporation. And three self-employed architects and developers will be in the class too.

Together the 16 students and Bess will study "New Urbanism" which, as an antidote to suburban sprawl, is a hotly debated topic among both academics and activists. It also is becoming increasingly prominent in both local and national political discourse.

The New Urbanists claim that traditional towns and urban neighborhoods are more conducive to "community" and provide more life choices than contemporary suburbs. Their critics claim that New Urbanist communities are artificial, characterized by class exclusivity, and out of synch with the "suburbia-as-the-American-Dream" ideal that vast numbers of Americans seem to share.

The seminar will look at the physical forms of human settlement and their relationship to human well-being and specifically the possible role of communities of faith in the revival of traditional towns and neighborhoods.

Other summer seminars will be on

  • The Loss of the Self in a Postmodern Therapeutic Culture (with Paul Vitz, Professor of Psychology at New York University)
  • Biology and Purpose: Altruism, Morality, and Human Nature in Evolutionary Theory (with Jeffrey P. Schloss, Professor of Biology at Westmont College and Philip Clayton, Professor of Philosophy at Sonoma State University)
  • Morality, Culture, and the Power of Religion in Social Life (with Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology at theUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

In addition to the five-week summer seminars, Calvin also will host a trio of week-long summer workshops on African American Christian Scholarship; Christian Approaches to Business; and Christian Perspectives on History.

Calvin has hosted summer seminars since 1996, funded primarily by the Pew Charitable Trusts although in recent years others, including the Lilly Fellows Program in the Humanities and the Arts, the John Templeton Foundation, Fieldstead and Company, the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities and Calvin itself, have given grants to make certain seminars possible.

Since 1996 there have been 200 participants representing 117 institutions, from 31 U.S. states, four Canadian provinces and eight other countries, and 24 denominations. Subsequent to the summer seminars have been 76 presentations, 28 published articles, 21 books and chapters and 10 course developments.

NOTE: There will be two public lectures as part of the Summer Seminars. On Tuesday, July 10 Paul Vitz, leader of the Loss of Self seminar, will speak on "The Self: From the Postmodern Crisis to a Transmodern Solution." That talk, free and open to the public, will be at 7:30 p.m. in Gezon Auditorium. On Tuesday, July 17 Philip Bess, leader of the New Urbanism seminar, will speak on "Monks and Markets: Culture, Economics, and Good Cities." That talk, free and open to the public, will be at 7:30 p.m. in Gezon Auditorium.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-957-6475 (v)
616-957-7069 (f)