|Calvin Announces New Provost
January 6, 2006
Claudia Beversluis, currently the dean for instruction at Calvin, is being recommended as Calvin's seventh chief academic officer, and the first woman in the post after a nationwide search that attracted almost 60 nominees.
Beversluis was one of three candidates recommended by a campus-wide search committee to Calvin president Gaylen Byker, who chose Beversluis in what he described as a decision made easier by the excellence of the candidates.
"All three finalists were terrific," says Byker, who celebrated 10 years at Calvin this summer and who also chose Beversluis' predecessor, Dr. Joel Carpenter. "But I am confident that in Dr. Beversluis we will have a provost who is a good fit for the position. It's a very important position for any college campus, but especially important at a place like Calvin where our faculty both teaches and does cutting-edge scholarship. I'm excited to see where Dr. Beversluis will lead our faculty during her appointment."
If Beversluis is approved by the Calvin Board of Trustees (in February) and the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church (in June) she will take over for Carpenter, who will end a 10-year tenure as provost to become director of a new institute on Calvin's campus, the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity.
Quentin Schultze, a professor in the communication arts and sciences department at Calvin, was co-chair of the provost search committee and says the provost post is a critical one for the college.
"The provost has to set the tone, direction and standards for the academic aspects of the college," he says. "That includes curricula, excellence in teaching and learning, off-campus programs, research and scholarship, faculty hiring, promotion and tenure. The provost represents the needs of the students and faculty and keeps them in tune with the college's overall mission and purpose."
Beversluis, says Schultze, has what it takes to do the job.
"The committee believes unanimously," he says, "that she has the right combination of interpersonal communication skills, enthusiasm for Reformed higher education, commitment to teaching excellence, strong support of research and scholarship, public speaking abilities with a range of constituencies and faculty trust that will equip her well for this job. She has done some very fine work both officially and unofficially in advancing the mission of the college as a strong teaching institution while thoroughly supporting the multicultural mission and gender advances of the institution."
Beversluis, a 1974 graduate of Calvin, says she applied for the job after feeling a sense of calling.
"I had many people on campus ask me if I planned to apply," she says with a chuckle. "It was hard to ignore that kind of input. When a community that you are part of calls you to leadership I believe that you have to say yes. So I applied."
Having gone through an intense search process and gotten the nod, Beversluis says it's now up to her to deliver.
"I feel some pressure," she acknowledges, "but also tremendous support and encouragement. We have such a terrific faculty here. I love our faculty. But I do feel that our faculty needs a lot of support to do their jobs well. The provost is a person who can influence that, who can support our faculty, thank them, give them the resources they need to do their work."
Beversluis notes that a lot is expected of the Calvin faculty.
"They're expected to be great teachers," she says, "and they're expected to do top-notch scholarship. Yet our scholarship is not done as a way to fill up a vitae. It's done out of a sense of faithfulness (to God) and a sense of calling. That creates a different sort of academic climate than one might find elsewhere. As provost, part of my job will be to continue to nurture that idea of teaching and scholarship as a response to God's purpose for our lives."
Calvin's growing global connections also will be a focus for Beversluis, who has made two trips to Korea in recent years to lecture on Christian higher education. But so will maintaining and strengthening Calvin's place in the City of Grand Rapids.
Having used service-learning during her nine years as a professor of psychology at Calvin, Beversluis says connecting the classroom experience to the city is a critical concern for the college.
"Getting Calvin students involved in the city," she says, "helps them understand that ideas matter and it helps them understand that they can make a difference. Those have been important considerations for Calvin for many years and will continue to be an emphasis for me."
In addition, says Beversluis, Calvin has an important role to play in the world of higher education, both Christian and non-religious.
"I think," she says, "that Calvin is a recognized leader in the realm of Christian higher education. We have a tradition here of taking the life of the mind seriously, of taking reason and discernment seriously. We've been in this field a long time. But I think we also have a lot to offer secular higher education. The intersections of religion and culture are happening in lots of different places - politics, science, entertainment. These are areas where Calvin has been working for a long time. So I think we can be a real resource in such areas."
Prior to coming to Calvin, Beversluis worked for eight years as a clinical psychologist at Pine Rest in Grand Rapids and then was the minister of congregational life at Church of the Servant in Grand Rapids. She began working at Calvin in 1990, first as a professor and then as dean for instruction.
"Some of the themes to my career," she says, "have been an interest in well-being and an interest in community life. As a professor I felt like teaching was so important because it shapes students. Then as dean I was part of a project that develops faculty who are committed to shaping students. As provost I get to take that a little further. I loved working with one student — I still do. But the work as provost is a chance to help many, many students here at Calvin. It's a great opportunity."
Beversluis, a Chicago native who has her master's and her Ph.D. from Loyola University in that city, is married to a fellow Calvin graduate, Dr. Marcus Beversluis. They have three children: David, a Calvin graduate currently in medical school at Case Western; Maria, a Calvin senior; and Claire, a senior at Grand Rapids Christian High School who is planning to attend Calvin this fall.
Among her areas of expertise as a psychologist are physiological psychology, human sexuality and gender, history of psychology and personality psychology.
She is currently teaching the Kuiper Seminar at Calvin (a three-week course for new faculty that introduces them to Christian liberal arts teaching and scholarship and to the tenets of Reformed thought) and is also teaching a course at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Beversluis will speak this summer at a Calvin conference called "Googling Youth in Troubled Times: A Conference for Those Working with Youth Amid the Culture Wars."
Past Calvin College Chief Academic Officers
For a paper co-written by Beversluis on Teaching toward Virtue: Curriculum as Formation at Calvin College see www.collegevalues.org/proceedings.cfm?ID=18
For the news release on the decision by Joel Carpenter to retire as provost see www.calvin.edu/news/releases/2004_05/carpenter.htm
And, for the Provost Search Commitee website see www.calvin.edu/admin/provost/provost-search
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