Jane Zwart, professor of English

Q&A with Jane Zwart 

Assistant Professor English
PhD, Boston University
Research/teaching interests in post-World War II literature, poetry and writing

Q:Why do you love working with Calvin honors students?

A: I love working with the honors program because I love plying students with questions and receiving, in return, astonishing answers. I love, too, teaching people who ask me questions that send me back to my books, from The Bible to Absalom, Absalom; from the Oxford English Dictionary to Love in a Dead Language. Indeed, such students inspire me to think fresh thoughts about books I have read and read and reread.

Q: How do you help students find research topics that excite them?

A: More often than not, I work with honors students whose interests are already myriad; thus, my task is less to rally their excitement for research than to help them find their scholarly niche, a point where several of their passions intersect. The direction that I give honors students, then, comes in several forms—the back-and-forth of conversation, the lending of books, and the scrawl of my written comments in their essays’ margins being a few.

Q:Why become an honors student at Calvin?

A: If I were answering this question—“Why become an honors student at Calvin?”—only to myself, I would simply write a list of names. The students who bear the names I would list are wildly different, but they have at least this in common: I have watched each of them graduate and silently wondered, in great faith, “and what amazing things will you do now?”. Of course, one need not graduate with honors from Calvin College in order to do remarkable things. I simply mean to say that a person looking to equip himself or herself with the intelligence and faithfulness, with the greatness of heart and mind, required to do such things would be in good company here.

Q&A with Bert de Vries

Professor of History and Archaeology
PhD, Brandeis University
Research/teaching interests in the Middle East and comparative ancient world history, archaeology sites and the emergence of Arab identity in the centuries before Islam

Q: How are you involved in The Calvin Honors Program?

A: I have taught a History 151,“The Ancient World and the West” honors course for the past two decades.

Q: How is the honors course that you teach different from a regular section of that course?

A:The main objective of the honors section of the course is the writing of an in-class published book on a single topic for which each student contributes a chapter on a specific aspect of the general topic. Examples from the list of thirteen books include Women in Antiquity, Aspects of Peace in the Ancient World and Foodways in Antiquity. An historical overview of ancient world history is covered in half the time taken for that in a regular 151 section, so that at least half the semester is available for the planning, writing and editing of the book.

Q: How do you help students find research topics that excite them?

A: After the class approves the selected general topic, the book is planned by the class. Each student is invited to submit several topics, which are then discussed by the class and in individual meetings with the instructor. This way an agreed-upon list of sub-topics is created, which is then organized into a coherent table of contents.

Q:Why become an honors student at Calvin?

A:To me an important aspect of the honors program is that it encourages and enables students to do independent research, critical thinking and publishable writing. Students are given much greater control over and responsibility for their own intellectual development, so that they graduate as accomplished scholars with independent research skills.

What Calvin honors profs say about the program

"From the day honors students come to campus, they are cultivated for professional and advanced work. We encourage individual research for our honors students early on. We want to ensure that by the time a student is senior, he or she will be in an advantageous position for graduate study or a career."—Prof. Ken Bratt, classics