Center for Social Research

Research Associate Experiences: an update from Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden!

One important position that CSR offers is that of Research Associate. The Research Associate assists in the management of ongoing campus and community projects. As part of this project management, the Research Associate supervises, trains, and supports the student research team. The person in this position is responsible for assigning project work, making and meeting deadlines, preparing data, conducting data analysis, and working alongside the other CSR staff to meet project goals. One of our recent CSR Research Associates, Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden, offers the following comments about her experiences at the Center.

Christina Vanden Bosch der Nederlanden
Research Associate from May 2009 - July 2011
Current Location: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Ph.D. program in Experimental Psychology with an Emphasis in Development

It has been a few years now since I worked as the Research Associate at Calvinís Center for Social Research (CSR), but nearly every day I am grateful for the investment that each member of the CSR made in me during my time there. I worked at the CSR for two years under Neil Carlsonís and Jim Penningís leadership and under the steadfast care of Kathy Bardolph. As a Research Associate, I had the opportunity to work with an evolving team of research assistants and technicians while learning about the Centerís many software tools and projects. While I learned countless things, ranging from current topics in Political Science to the language of the Bynars from Star Trekís Next Generation, I also learned key skills that have helped me as a graduate student today. Two key areas come to mind when I think about how the CSR has impacted my day-to-day thinking: the ability to work efficiently with data, and the desire to tell others about the findings and outcomes of my research.

The chief concern of the folks at the CSR is to make sure that the people doing the work were not simply cogs in the machine or mindless data crunchers. Instead, an emphasis is placed on fully understanding the thought process that goes into making decisions about how to store, process, analyze, and interpret data. By being part of the process of weighing the pros and cons of multiple solutions, I learned how to think about data and how to work with it most efficiently. Even now when I come to a problem that Iíve never seen before, such as coding in a program like MatLab, I am able to reverse-engineer (a CSR mantra) my way to a solution. Through my work with the CSR I also learned the importance of thinking outside the box, such as using software tools for collecting online survey data as a way to cleanly have research assistants perform data entry tasks free of typing errors. I do my best to teach other members of the lab at my university timesaving tricks and tips in Microsoft Excel or SPSS syntax with the same genuine enthusiasm for data processing that I learned from the CSR.

Of course, collecting mountains of data isnít the goal of the research process; the most important part of the research process is doing something with the results. Through community-based projects with the DeVos Foundation, I saw the real impact that collecting data and reporting outcomes can have on the community. At the CSR we created complex data visualizations for a summer school initiative that helped individual clients see which outcomes they were excelling at in their work, but also highlighted the areas that they could focus on for the next summer term. This past year I was able to present my masterís thesis data at a music and language development symposium in Montreal, Quebec. Much to my surprise, I won the prize for the best graduate student poster presentation. The knowledge and excitement that I was able to communicate for my own research was fostered and grown through countless opportunities to talk about results during meetings with Neil, our research assistants, and as mentioned above. One of the key avenues that helped me gain confidence in presenting my own ideas was having the chance to be part of the brainstorming process for new research ideas or to uncover best ways to answer research questions with tools like GIS or statistical modeling.

I am indebted to Calvinís CSR for the time and thought that went into mentoring and preparing me to be a successful graduate student. The diverse teachers and learners at the Center made for an enjoyable and intelligent group of people to share in the difficult work of collecting and reporting research findings. Each of the members of the CSR are a real asset for any Calvin student contemplating the graduate school route; these are some of the finest colleagues to work with while learning the constellation of considerations that go into collecting, processing, analyzing, and reporting data, and how to be enthusiastic about doing it!


Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Thursday, April 03, 2014 at 09:20 AM
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New Advisors

The When The People Speak Deliberative Poll Event is proud to announce our new project advisors:

Name Title Employer
Alan Vanderberg County Administrator Ottawa County
Curtis Holt City Manager Wyoming
Greg Sundstrom City Manager Grand Rapids
Jim Talen Kent County Commissioner 16th†District
Jorge Gonzalez Director of Economic Development LINC
Keith Van Beek Assistant County Administrator Ottawa County
Kevin den Dulk Executive Director of Henry Institute Calvin College
Mark Lemoine Director of System Government Affairs Spectrum Health
Neil Carlson Director of Center for Social Research Calvin College
Rosalynn Bliss City Commissioner of Grand Rapids 2nd Ward

For more information about the Poll Event, visit our website:
If you are interested in contributing to our project as an advisor, please†contact us!

Posted by Michael Kelly on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 11:13 AM
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New search for CSR’s next Assistant Director

CSR has a ton of work to do, so we are expanding our team. We are looking for great candidates with relevant Master’s or PhD degrees to fill our Assistant Director position. Having been the Assistant Director myself, I can tell you that the job is a challenging and rewarding platform on which to build a great career in research. Calvin College and CSR are increasingly connected to the community, technically sophisticated and involved in a broad array of interesting on- and off-campus projects. To get more information, visit or contact us at 616 526-7799 or

Posted by Neil Carlson on Monday, November 04, 2013 at 12:25 PM
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CSR survey of CRC churches makes the news

Christianity Today magazine has reported on the 2012 CRC Survey in a recent article, “The Secrets of a Giving Church.” CSR “director emeritus” Rodger Rice, co-principal investigator on the project, was interviewed for the story.

Posted by Neil Carlson on Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 05:53 PM
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Social Sciences Lunch Seminar Series - Fall 2013

Each year, the social science departments invite a selection of expert speakers to give an informational presentation about a topic in their field. This yearís speakers for the fall semester are:

Session Title
October 18th
The Spread of New Illegal
Practices Among Management Elite.
November 1st
Political Science
(Vanderbilt University)
Building Effective Models
for Social Science Research.
November 15th
Outcomes Among Children Adopted
Internationally at School-Age.

Each talk will begin at 12:30p in the Alumni Association Board Room.  Professor Steve McMullen will distribute lunch tickets before the conversation begins.  Each talk will end with enough time to get to 1:30p classes.

We hope to see you there!

Posted by Michael Kelly on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 03:04 PM
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