May 21, 2002
Calvin Hits 100%
Perhaps the new John "Doc" DeVries Hall of Science at Calvin College is starting to pay dividends.
This week Calvin biology professor Peter Tigchelaar learned all 24 Calvin seniors who applied to medical, dental and podiatry school were accepted. That includes 21 students off to medical school in the fall, two to dental school and one to podiatry school. It is the first time in Tigchelaar's 25 years as a pre-med advisor that 100% of Calvin's applicants have been accepted. Most years the acceptance rate is between 80 and 85 percent, certainly a good number, says Tigchelaar, but not perfect.
Tigchelaar says a number of factors contributed to the surge this year, including DeVries Hall, an $18 million life sciences facility dedicated in the fall of 1999 (when this year's seniors were sophomores).
"This place is humming in the summer," he says of DeVries Hall. "Our students are involved in all kinds of research programs, working side-by-side with Calvin professors. They have full access to all the equipment, all of the labs. We hide nothing from them. Medical schools look at these kinds of experiences."
In fact, when the 70,000-square-foot DeVries Hall was dedicated the school noted that faculty and students in the Calvin sciences would have 60 percent more space for research. The extra space is paying off. And Calvin undergrads are the beneficiaries.
But the building is just a tool. Tigchelaar also credits the Calvin faculty and, of course, the students themselves.
"We work hard as advisors," he says, "but our students work a lot harder . They study together and inspire and push each other."
This year Calvin students had another avenue for preparation as they organized Calvin's first AMSA (American Medical Student Association) Chapter. The AMSA program is a nation-wide organization for pre-med and medical students that offers mentoring and direction for student who are pursuing or considering pursuing a career in the medical field.
Grand Rapids native Peter Knoester (above) helped organize the Chapter, an effort that led to him being named a recipient of a prestigious Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar Award in men's soccer by the publication Black Issues in Higher Education. The award recognizes student-athletes of color who have displayed significant accomplishment in athletics, academics and community service.
Knoester, says Tigchelaar, is a good representative of this year's senior class. A native of Grand Rapids and a graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School, Knoester was a Calvin spanish major who will attend the University of Michigan Medical School in the fall, prior to a planned career in medical missions.
Those plans were inspired during a January 2001 trip to Ecuador for a Calvin course called "Exploring Medical Missons in Ecuador." While in the South American country, Knoester worked at the Hospital Vozandes Oriente, sorting medical supplies, pouring concrete for new hospital facilities and shadowing hospital doctors. During the term, Knoester spent two weeks living in the Ecuador jungle with two separate tribes of people. Knoester also has worked at Raybrook Manor Retirement Home and volunteered at the Alzheimer Unit at Porter Hills Presbyterian Village.
"Those kinds of experiences," says Tigchelaar, "are part of who we are as a liberal arts college. Our goal is to turn out intelligent, capable and well-rounded graduates."
Calvin officials note that the school has worked hard to attract smart, capable and well-rounded high school students. In fact, Calvin has increased its scholarships to top high school students in recent years. A recent study showed that in the state of Michigan this year the top three schools for National Merit Scholars were Michigan, Michigan State and Calvin.
Those efforts, says Tigchelaar, help Calvin come Commencement time.
Tigchelaar is not only excited for his students, but also for the hundreds of Calvin alumni already working locally, regionally and nationally in the health professions.
"I find this very encouraging news as the pre-med advisor," he says, "but I also think our many alumni in the medical professions will be heartened to know that the trails they blazed are being followed by a talented group of successors."