April 09, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

A photo of Dr. Kyle J.A. Small
Dr. Kyle J.A. Small is Calvin University's first-ever dean of graduate studies.

In 2019, Calvin changed its last name from “college” to “university.” The move was part of the university’s strategic vision, which included expanding its offerings to reach new learners. Five years later, one of the ripple effects of that “big splash name change” is clearly visible.

Expansion of programming

“Over the last four years our graduate education offerings have quadrupled in size and in scope,” said Kevin den Dulk, associate provost at Calvin.

In 2019, the university had three graduate programs and 100 graduate students. Today, Calvin offers 12 graduate programs to over 350 learners.

“With that growth, the need for dedicated leadership was increasingly clear,” said den Dulk. “It’s not just keeping up with our growth, but forward thinking both in terms of scale and quality of our graduate programs.”

Adding strategic leadership

It's with that context, following an international search, that Calvin University is announcing the hiring of Dr. Kyle J.A. Small as the institution’s first-ever dean of graduate studies.

“Calvin is the gold standard of integration of faith and learning,” said Small. “My work is at the intersection of theology and social sciences, and Calvin has been a place that pursues truth wherever it leads; Calvin honors all the disciplines. At the top of the stairs in Spoelhof University Center a banner says, ‘Test everything. Hold on to the good.’ Calvin has always had a clear mission and purpose, and I want to be part of it.”

Small is currently professor of leadership and the founding director of the Center for Leadership and Organizations at Anderson University in South Carolina. Prior to his work at Anderson, he served as dean of formation for ministry and professor of leadership at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.

A background in building

Den Dulk says that Small has proven at every stop an ability to build quality graduate pathways.

“He created a set of programs at Anderson from scratch that have grown in size and quality,” said den Dulk. “He’s done that partly because of a team-focused approach where he works across lines of division to bring people together to create a great experience for students. That’s the combination we need going forward with graduate studies at Calvin.”

Small agrees. And he’s excited to help with building bridges at a place like Calvin.

“I hope to be a collaborative leader who can pull people together. ‘What’s going well that we can systematize? Where are pinch points where we need attention? Where are we not meeting our goals and how can the school of graduate studies help?’ Those are the questions I take into the role,” said Small.

Establishing deep roots

“When I look at the 12 grad programs at Calvin, they all exist out of areas Calvin is already excellent; that’s really important to me,” said Small. “Calvin has a rich tradition, history, and culture of excellence. So, we don’t want to chase after the wind or seek offerings that are quick, cheap, and easy, but rather we are aiming to establish deep roots in seeking slow, wise, and sustainable growth.”

Small is a native of Omaha, Nebraska. He completed his undergraduate degree at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; his M.Div. at North Park Seminary in Chicago, Illinois; and his PhD at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He will begin in his new role in early summer.

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