Strengthen Calvin’s Mission in Education
“A Calvin education, at its best, hones, endows, and empowers skills for leadership. That doesn’t necessarily mean running the enterprise. It means being a voice at the table that recurrently calls everybody back to the question, ‘Why are we doing what we’re doing?’ And being a voice that can articulate the why in a creative, imaginative way that inspires people.”
For 27 years, Jim Bratt has been helping Calvin students discover themselves as leaders. Teaching them how to ask questions at the heart of the matter. A Yale-educated historian, a two-time Fulbright scholar, and recipient of the university’s highest teaching award, Bratt doesn’t tire of engaging with students in the "seemingly inefficient process of searching and learning." It’s a process he immerses himself in, "because it’s the true and proven way to wisdom." That’s why colleague Bill Romanowski calls Bratt "a teacher deeply entrenched in and committed to the Reformed enterprise.”
“The ability to ask the meaningful questions that leaders ask comes from meeting lots of people who have demonstrated leadership in the past. Our students meet these leaders and their strong compelling visions in great works of art, in historical and religious texts, in science—and they encounter the contradictions among them, too. We want students to ask, ‘What do these people have to tell us?’ Then they can bounce off them to come up with their own visions—while being aware that the best answers can go bad and that they’ll continually have to revise their own answers.”
Secure Calvin’s Mission in Scholarship
“I can’t do my work alone. There isn’t enough time. So my students get their hands on everything. Every paper I publish has multiple student co-authors.”
Carolyn Anderson is a synthetic organic chemist. That means she discovers methods for putting atoms together in ways they’ve never been put together before. Down the line her work makes possible new pharmaceuticals for treating everything from colds to cancer. She typically employs four students in her research lab each summer and during the school year.
“There’s nothing like doing research to tell you whether you want to do research. It gives students an independent space where they can be the experts. I’ve had several students come through who lacked confidence, but when let loose in the lab, they’ve come alive.”
Calvin was one of 12 institutions nationwide to receive the Beckman Scholars Program, which provides $104,000 over three years to fund the independent research of four students in biochemistry, chemistry, or biology. Those chosen are elite students who, according to Anderson, “have the potential to change the face of science.” Calvin was also a Beckman Scholars Program recipient in 2008.
In addition, Calvin has had 15 of its science students awarded prestigious Goldwater Fellowships since 2008, more than any other primarily undergraduate institution in the country.
“These awards demonstrate that we have students every bit as good as any school in the country. We’re not second fiddle to anyone.”
“I tell prospective students, if you want to be at a primarily undergraduate institution, if you want to do top-notch science and if you want to be in a place where it’s not just lip service to say that faith is integrated with learning, then this is where you come. Because that’s what we do, and we do it exceptionally well.”
Support Calvin’s Mission in Community
“One of the unique benefits of my job is that I’m all over campus, from the classrooms to the kitchens, training professors and employees of all kinds in everything from hazardous waste disposal to how to prevent falls.”
Heather Chapman is one of Calvin’s two environmental health and occupational safety officers. She’s also a spin instructor for Healthy Habits, the university’s wellness program, where she’s affectionately known as the "Queen of Mean.”
“I love walking into a large department to do a training and seeing friendly faces from spin class. Suddenly I’m not an outsider from the health and safety department. And if we have a problem, it’s so much easier to resolve, because we’ve built a relationship spinning together.
“Professional or departmental tensions start to break down when people exercise together. Because we’re more vulnerable. We’re not dressed up and cleaned up. We’re in our gym clothes, and we’re sweaty. Walls crumble. Then, when we’re back in the workplace, we look at each other differently.
“One of our core spin class members had a relapse of his cancer this year. So we hosted a spin-a-thon for him. For 12 hours 60 people from all over campus, people who didn’t even know him, showed up to spin for Darren—21 of them at 6:00 a.m.! And we raised $2,400 for his medical costs.
“All of us came together for a common goal. But that happens every time we spin. In other meetings people come with their separate agendas for the outcome. In the spin room we all have the same goal: to work out and work up a good sweat. It’s a beautiful thing.”
- Diversity & Inclusion
Strengthen Calvin’s Pursuit of Diversity and Inclusion
“It starts with self-awareness, when every one of us sees that he or she is a cultural being.”
Christina Edmondson, dean for intercultural student development, is a psychologist. So, not surprisingly, she understands that creating a climate at Calvin that allows students of every race, ethnicity, and culture to thrive is first of all a work of self-awareness.
“Often we think of people in the American majority culture as not having a culture, as culturally neutral. With white students I like to stress that they have a cultural story to tell, too, just like American minority students and international students.
“For each of us, telling our cultural stories begins with saying, ‘This is how it feels to be in the skin I’m in.’ That requires a great deal of vulnerability. That puts people of majority and minority cultures on the same ground. Everyone is in a place of vulnerability. And everyone has something to share.”
Edmondson and her staff create many venues for such self-storytelling. Some are workshops and classes. Others are more informal, like Intercultural Happy Hour: a place to drop in, have snacks, and talk about anything from spring break plans to personal heroes.
“Once we get practice telling our stories, then we can find the common threads in those stories. That’s how we form relationships with people who are different from us.
“We want to have a variety of on-ramps for people to have the serious conversations about race that develop cultural intelligence. This is part of what it means to be a good Calvin citizen and good leader in today’s world.
“God’s image isn’t unique to one particular culture or race. These conversations help us see God through another person’s eyes—to see God in a whole new way!”
- Financial Future
Secure Calvin’s Financial Future
In May 1996, after five miscarriages, Calvin alumni Bill and Sue Morren were overjoyed at the birth of twins Blake and Elise. Within a few months, the new parents began to worry about the low muscle tone in both babies. At eight months, Blake and Elise were diagnosed with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic neuromuscular disease. Because of their weakened respiratory systems, both twins died shortly before their second birthday.
“When Blake and Elise died, we talked about endowing a scholarship for pediatric nurses. We’d spent a lot of time in the hospital—one stay was 40 days and 40 nights—and the nurses, especially, really affected us.”
“They made it fun for the kids every day. Then, at the end, they were so caring. They let us help bathe and dress their bodies, and they made little name bracelets and plaster hand prints for us. They really loved our kids.”
The next spring, in May 1999, Sue gave birth to Macy. She and Bill saw the signs, and a blood test confirmed that Macy, too, had Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She died three months before her second birthday.
“After Macy died, we were sure we wanted to endow a scholarship.”
“We saw what a special kind of person it takes to be a pediatric nurse. And from talking with them, we knew it wasn’t easy for them to get through a nursing program. So we thought, what a valuable investment, to help make it possible for students to become the hands and feet of Jesus to someone else, like they had been to us.”
Since 2001, the Blake, Elise, and Macy Morren Memorial Scholarship has supported 21 Calvin students preparing to be pediatric nurses.
“So many of them tell us, ‘I don’t know how I would have paid for my education without your scholarship.‘ We’re so grateful to be able to give back a little of the love and help given to us.”
Bill and Sue Morren
Support Calvin’s Mission through External Partnerships
“We don’t do ‘touch and go.’ Our program is about residing in the community. Giving and receiving, building trust.
For 12 years now, residents of three low-income Grand Rapids neighborhoods have welcomed Calvin student nurses. The students are there—in homes, community centers, clinics—learning community-based nursing, an approach with no experts. Everyone works together to tackle health problems.
Neighborhood women told a needs assessment team from Calvin’s nursing department that unintended pregnancies were one of those problems. A big one. Professor Adejoke Ayoola wanted to learn more.
“So we asked them, ‘How do you suggest we deal with this?’ They told us, ‘Teach us about our bodies. In our homes.’”
Neighborhood women helped Ayoola design a unique program to do that, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation endorsed it with a $350,000 grant. Her student researchers go with community health workers to visit 120 women every month for six months, showing them how to take and record their temperature each day and monitor their ovulation time so they can understand when they’re at risk for getting pregnant. They talk together about reproductive anatomy and health, too.
“This equips women with the knowledge they need to plan their pregnancies. It also helps their emotional well-being. So many of them at times feel helpless. But this gives them the sense of being in charge of their pregnancies and of their lives.
“My students are learning so much—the rigors of research and how to communicate on a sensitive topic, yes. But also they are telling me that listening to the stories of the neighborhood women has been ‘eye opening, heartbreaking, and powerful.’
“Now other agencies are hearing about our program and wanting to know how to incorporate what we’re doing into their programs. So our partnerships are increasing. I’m hoping it will become a national model.”