December 09, 2021 | Kayliani Powlison

Students and faculty are gathered around a table, knitting with yarn

Every year, hundreds of new students step onto Calvin University's campus for the first time as "students." It's a big step, and finding community and gaining a sense of belonging becomes a key aim of this transition time in a student's life. While there are many ways students find community, Calvin's cohort programs provide a great on-ramp to college life.

Calvin has been recruiting students to participate in its cohort programs, which allow incoming freshmen to be involved in supportive communities of like-minded students. These cohorts include the Honors Cohort, Ministry Leadership Cohort, and the Arts Collective Cohort, and as Calvin has discovered students’ positive experiences in these groups, new cohort options are becoming available.

“The cohorts really give you a lot more confidence to step into Calvin's communities and to really participate,” says Emily Berry, a sophomore majoring in psychology and social work.

Broadening Faith

No matter which major(s) students choose, Calvin encourages everyone to explore and grow in their faith. The Ministry Leadership Cohort invites students from all academic disciplines to take part in a community of students who show potential for all kinds of leadership in the local church.

“[The Ministry Leadership Cohort] allows you to serve in the church using your unique gifts that don’t have to necessarily be related to ministry,” says Berry. “It’s really cool because you get to learn social justice in the church and do community outreach to ministries that are specific to your gifts and your strengths.”

Sarah Gibes, a peer leader of the Ministry Leadership Cohort, explains some of the activities that cohort members can experience as part of campus ministries: “There are weekly small groups, weekly dinners, meetings at Peet’s [Coffee], and mentoring with the staff and students who work with the Ministry Leadership Cohort.”

In addition, the cohort offers students opportunities to interact with members of other Christian communities at Calvin, including Grand Rapids’ leaders in youth ministry and local best-selling authors. Students are also offered an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to experience ministry in new and unconventional ways.

Connecting Creatively

“I was a commuter as a freshman, so I really felt as though I was the only one on campus that hadn’t been assigned a ‘best friend’ through the roommate process,” says senior Gabrielle Eisma, a member of the Arts Collective Cohort,” [but] my cohort gave me an honest place to reflect on the very real fears I felt, and a place to reach out when I needed someone to talk to, eat with, or navigate homework with.”

The Arts Collective Cohort offers a collaborative environment where students can engage themselves with God’s creation and support one another in creative work.

“I’ve never seen a program like this that emphasizes the appreciation of arts,” marvels senior English major Hannah Riffel. “The Arts Collective Cohort de-emphasizes the technical and lets you have the freedom to explore and talk about the arts.”

Though many students from the Arts Collective Cohort are not art majors, there is an overwhelming appreciation for the arts that binds the community together like glue. With different creative strengths, students from this cohort can comfortably rely on and encourage one another as they continue their journeys through college.

Building Relationships and Resumes

The Honors Scholars Program nurtures a sense of excellence, curiosity, and exploration across disciplinary boundaries within a committed community of student and faculty scholars.

Ana, a member of the Honors Scholars Program, talks about how her involvement in this cohort helped her build deep and lasting relationships as well as her resume.

“The Honors Scholars created some of the best memories and relationships that I had at Calvin,” she recalls. “It challenged me academically and provided me with the opportunity to do research and get published. It's a great resume-builder—you can walk away with tangible evidence of your work and your skillset."

The Journey Begins

Cohorts are a great way for students to establish themselves in a community of individuals with shared passions. Incoming freshmen are eligible to join a cohort, which helps in creating community from the start. Cohorts can only be joined at this critical period between high school and college.

Applications for admission are opening soon, and so are cohort applications. To learn more about or to apply to be part of one of these engaging and supportive groups of students, visit the Honors Cohort, Arts Collective Cohort, or Ministry Leadership Cohort pages.

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