June 11, 2024 | John Zimmerman

A group of faculty from Calvin University who participated in the Summer writing co-op.
Nine Calvin faculty members participated in this year's Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship's Summer Writing Co-op.

At Calvin University, faculty scholarship is highly valued and actively supported through various initiatives, one of the most significant being the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship's annual Summer Writing Co-op. Since its inception in 2016, this program has provided faculty with a protected space to advance or complete specific writing projects, fostering an environment conducive to deep work and meaningful progress.

David V. Urban, professor of English, advisor of the Collegiate Scholars Program and co-director of the co-op explains, “The Summer Writing Co-op, a distinctive five-day intensive program, is tailored to provide faculty members from all disciplines and career stages with dedicated time to write.”

Advancing scholarship

Participants are encouraged to apply with a specific writing project intended for publication—such as a book chapter or article—that can be significantly advanced in just five days. The program's flexibility allows for a wide range of writing projects, including those involving words, music, code, and other forms of expression.

Urban continues, “The program's structured days, which begin with a prayer and a session of writing tips, provide a supportive and focused environment for faculty members. The mornings are dedicated to uninterrupted writing, allowing participants to delve deep into their projects.”

This undistracted time is crucial for maintaining focus, ensuring accountability, and fostering significant progress. The group reconvenes for lunch to share updates and insights, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. The afternoons are reserved for individual writing, and each day concludes with a reflective debriefing session to discuss achievements and challenges.

Significant returns

“The impact of the Summer Writing Co-op is profound,” added Urban. “Faculty members often report remarkable progress, with some producing numerous pages of new material. This focused environment facilitates productivity and provides a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary interaction and feedback.” Participants gain new perspectives on their work by engaging with colleagues from different fields, which can stimulate innovative thinking and collaborative opportunities.

The Summer Writing Co-op has experienced significant success and growth in recent years, a testament to its effectiveness and value. By 2020, the program had expanded to include two sessions each summer, and there are plans to introduce an additional session during the January intensive period. This expansion is a direct response to the high demand and positive feedback from faculty, highlighting the program's role in supporting academic writing and research at Calvin University.

Increased diversity

An exciting development in the latest Co-op was the increased participation of international faculty members. This diversity enriched the program, bringing together scholars from multiple countries to share their unique perspectives and experiences. Such interactions enhance the global dimension of Calvin University's scholarly community and foster cross-cultural academic collaborations.

There were nine faculty participants in total. The faculty participating in the co-op represent three countries beyond the U.S.: Nigeria, Brazil, and Cameroon.

Support and accountability

Participants highlight the importance of this time and space for writing amidst their busy schedules. The co-op offers more than just a break from teaching and administrative duties; it provides a structured, supportive environment where faculty can prioritize their writing projects. This sense of accountability and community is crucial for many, helping them stay committed to their goals and make significant strides in their work.

Participants' testimonials underscore the co-op's transformative impact. For instance, Fernando Santos, assistant professor of computer science, notes the invaluable connections and insights gained from colleagues, which have directly influenced his ongoing projects. Laura Smit, professor of theology, shares how the co-op facilitated new professional relationships, leading to potential collaborations beyond the immediate writing tasks.

Estella Njoyim Tamungange, a professor of environmental chemistry from Northwest Cameroon, Central Africa, shared her unique perspective. She described the morning prayers and discussions as spiritually uplifting, preparing her for the day’s task. The lunchtime discussions, where collaboration was encouraged and connections were built, were not just professional but also personal, with the exchange of gifts and prayers for the sick. She noted that these gatherings felt like mini church services, fostering a sense of community among the participants.

Ultimately, organizers say the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship's Summer Writing Co-op exemplifies the university's commitment to fostering academic excellence and community. By providing faculty with the resources and support they need to focus on their writing, Calvin University enhances individual scholarship and the intellectual life of its academic community.

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