This summer, Calvin Professor Amy Patterson traveled to Zambia and Ghana to interview academics, politicians, leaders of churches and faith-based organizations, and others involved in AIDS advocacy and policy-making. The Africa trip is a key part of the political science professor's research project: "Protestants and the Politics of AIDS in Zambia and Ghana."
"Those are two Christian countries," Patterson said. "My question is, 'How do churches use the moral voice that they have to be a voice of advocacy for AIDS policies? What's their role in the political system in policy-making?'"
Patterson's AIDS project is a prime example of Calvin's commitment to research excellence from every discipline, said Calvin Provost Claudia Beversluis: "Because we're committed to the idea that the Christian faith is relevant to every area of inquiry, it's important for Calvin faculty to contribute to fields as varied as dry eye syndrome, super computers, children's literature, Chinese art and Middle Eastern archeology. Calvin is working to influence ideas, and we can do that on a larger stage by having faculty whose expertise shapes discussions and actions around the world."
Working alongside Patterson, both conducting and transcribing interviews, was Calvin junior Kyla Vander Hart. The trip wasn't glamorous, but Vander Hart-an international relations and French major and African studies minor-has studied the relevant data and was ready for some firsthand experience.
"I've learned how complex HIV/AIDS is after several weeks of research. I'm seeing how many factors are involved," she said, adding with a laugh: "I think that knowledge will continue to grow!"
The project is funded by Calvin's McGregor Research Fellowships program, which pairs Calvin professors and students on a wide range of humanities and social science research projects.
Faculty research has multiple benefits for the students who participate, Patterson said: "Working with a student pushes them to ask questions in new ways. . It builds confidence and competence and independence." Every one of Patterson's student researchers has gone on to graduate school, and every one of them has cited her or his research experience as the reason why.
Currently, funding from sources like the McGregor program, Calvin Research Fellowships and the Calvin Alumni Association supports faculty and student research, but these sources only begin to address the need.
A portion of the money raised through the Campaign for Calvin College will create a permanent endowment specifically designed to support faculty research and scholarship. This endowment will leverage Calvin's long tradition of attracting gifted faculty and producing world-changing scholarship-a direct benefit to students in both the classroom and laboratory.
Campaign gifts already supporting this endeavor include:
"The research funding that's made possible by the capital campaign allows faculty time to pursue their interests; it allows them to bring student researchers into their projects," Beversluis said. "And it allows them to integrate their teaching and research lives."
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