December 12, 2022 | Matt Kucinski

A group of 16 students in two rows stand close to one another, smile at the camera.
First-year students find community through Calvin's growing number of cohort programs. The Ministry Leadership Cohort is pictured above.

Many people find community through their interests. Perhaps it’s through a sport or a hobby. In colleges and universities, it can often be through one’s area of study or a student organization. While each of these common interests can create community, what deepens these shared experiences is when they are clearly tied to a common value.

“That’s the beauty of this model, students who have a shared passion are going to share experiences too that will deepen their social bonds, develop their network, which is going to make them more resilient individuals as they go through college and even beyond,” said Tom Hartzell.

Sustainability Fellows

Hartzell is the campus sustainability program coordinator and director of the Sustainability Fellows Program, one of Calvin’s University’s newest cohorts. While sustainability and creation care have long been core values of the university, Hartzell says having a cohort formed around this value provides a more meaningful experience for students.

“What the Sustainability Fellows Cohort will do is bring together students who have a passion for sustainability whether that’s focused on the natural environment, human communities, or the economy and they are going to come together and get to practice sustainability in the real world together,” said Hartzell.

The students will take courses together in their first two semesters, and each spring semester they will be paired in small teams with a community partner to help them work through real sustainability issues. The students will also develop leadership skills by planning and executing a sustainability summit that welcomes high school and college students and professionals from the region who are interested in learning more about sustainability and how they can take action. And the students will participate together in a spring break trip where they will engage with various models of sustainability, to understand and appreciate efforts taken both at the small grassroots and corporate level.

“When a student has finished the program, we want them to be able to step into any context and recognize what steps can be taken to make that environment, that place, that community more sustainable, to have the skills and the experience to do that,” said Hartzell.

“Knowing other people who care about the same things you do, but maybe through a different lens, is going to enable students to have broader perspectives and more people they can lean on,” said Hartzell. “We are always stronger when we are together, that’s why a lot of elements of the cohort program will be done together in community.”

Common Good

The Common Good Coalition is the other cohort that is being added to the university’s portfolio of programs in fall 2023. And, like all the others, it aims to create intentional community around a common value.

“I think the experiential nature of this cohort is going to allow for deeper intimacy, more robust conversations, a richer understanding of what we are trying to get at,” said Mark Mulder, director of the Common Good Coalition, who is also a professor of sociology and director of the urban studies minor.

Through this cohort, students will be encouraged to think about how the common good manifests in material culture, “so the common good is about how do we get people to flourish, to thrive, to engage and participate,” said Mulder.

Mulder recognizes that in order to increase engagement and participation, everyone must have access, and that requires recognition of where accessibility is lacking and a commitment to invest in removing barriers to entry.

“We need good public spaces, such as sidewalks, streets, hospitals, libraries, nature trails, parks—these are all material manifestations of the common good. We want to make sure as many people can participate as possible, so we’ll be exploring how we draw people out into society to participate.”

For Mulder, while students in the cohort will take a series of classes together, including their Core 100 course around the theme of the common good, it’s the living lab they’ll be working in often that will provide some of the best opportunities for students to deepen their understanding around the common good concept and their relationships with one another.

“Grand Rapids is a fantastic place to be exploring the common good,” said Mulder. “It’s a city with such a rich tapestry of neighborhoods, social services agencies, there are a lot of places we can explore.”

In addition to exploring the many facets of Grand Rapids, students will also investigate other cities and locations together as well as participate in either a spring break trip or an off-campus winter intensive.

Common experience

In total, Calvin University offers five cohorts for students to pursue their passion in a tight-knit community. Students who will start at Calvin in fall 2023 can apply to join one of these five cohorts through this Thursday, December 15, 2022. Learn more and/or apply for one of these programs.

Cohorts at Calvin

The deadline for students starting at Calvin in fall 2023 to apply for one of Calvin’s five current cohort programs is Thursday, December 15, 2022. Click on the cohort you are interested in below to learn more and/or apply.

Arts Collective

Common Good Coalition

Honors Scholars

Ministry Leadership

Sustainability Fellows

Health Ambassadors (available in fall 2024)

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