It has been 30 years since the Calvin Alumni Association offered alumni travel in its portfolio of programming.
“There was no strong reason why travel wasn’t part of the association’s offerings,” said alumni director Mike Van Denend ’78. “The last series of tours was offered in 1981, and it simply seemed to the alumni staff at that time that there was plenty of other work to do to build the organization.”
During subsequent years, occasional travel experiences were offered through the association in its Travel with a Purpose program, but those opportunities were sporadic.
“We didn’t push any travel programs very hard,” said Van Denend. “It was only when a professor—usually retired from full-time teaching—was interested in taking a group out and contacted us that we advertised something.”
In 2011, the landscape changed.
“In doing some strategic planning, we noted that travel was one of the mainstays of alumni organizations that we did virtually nothing about,” said Van Denend. “We thought it was time to venture into this territory again.”
Another major boost for considering travel was the development of a partnership with CALL (the Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning), a senior-learning organization that now boasts nearly 1,200 members.
CALL had established an extended trips committee to delve into travel and that committee’s chair, Frank Roberts, a retired Calvin professor of history, was a veteran of many travel-study experiences, including some under the “Travel with a Purpose” banner of the alumni association.
“A partnership with CALL and benefiting from Frank’s leadership seemed appropriate and timely,” Van Denend said.
The alumni association and CALL burst onto the travel scene with four trips in 2011. Those already completed included a river cruise of France, led by dean of students emeritus William K. Stob; the New Testament churches of Turkey, with seminary professor Jeffrey Weima; and the national parks of the American West, with alumni leader John Apol ’66. An excursion to China with director of off-campus programs Don De Graaf was under way at publication time. See all trips and photos.
Response has been encouraging and evaluations of the trips glowing.
For 2012, another excursion to the New Testament churches of Greece with Weima and a trip to South Africa with Apol have been approved. There is conversation about Israel, Guatemala and other United States-based travel.
“We’re getting reacquainted with travel programming again and are pleased with the early returns,” said Van Denend. “As the college itself has gone global in its curriculum and focus, we want to work in tandem and offer inspiring worldwide opportunities for Calvin alumni and friends.”