MEET Brian Van Eck, Calvin University Class of 2011

How did your life path lead to Calvin University?

Like many of my classmates, my family has a great history with Calvin. My grandparents on mom’s side both came to Calvin. My grandfather went on to work at the university as an electrician. I grew up going with him to Calvin basketball games. I remember sitting on the old wooden bleachers with Grandpa looking over the bar that separated student section from the rest of the seating. Because of my Christian primary education and our family connections, I always felt like Calvin University was home.

As I pondered career ideas, I liked the idea of architecture. I had loved Legos, which was a lot about design-build in my mind, so architecture seemed interesting was my initial thinking. What I learned once I got into it, I discovered there is a lot in the “art” department –there is some creativity but tons of technical and drawing, which was not my thing. Fortunately, I realized the disconnect in practice as a freshman, so I took step back and asked myself what’s next. I didn’t want to leave Calvin and I am a “people” person, so I was interested in the business program. My parents were unsure, but after sitting down with me, they supported my new direction. That shift called for some broad classes to see if I’d found the right answer, as I was now catching up with my cohort from freshman year. I found that I loved business, so I then concentrated on human resources and marketing. I worked hard and was soon on track.

What was the greatest challenge you faced while you were at Calvin?

It was a challenge to learn more about myself and what I was good at. I had an affinity for math, but when I got into finance, I didn’t like it as much as I expected to, and all these lessons were valuable.

The process of owning my faith was also a challenge. At so many places it’s easy to set faith aside and just be good at your job. Compartmentalized, separate thinking. Professor Bob Eames and Professor Jason Stansbury had a big impact on how I viewed that. They taught in such an organic way the synergy of being a Christian in the workplace and how it shapes your perspective on how you interact. Thinking back, I can say there was no time that Calvin professors weren’t actively engaged in making us good people as much as well-educated. We left learning what it meant to be a faithful person in addition to balance sheets.

What was most rewarding about your Calvin experience?

The most rewarding part of my Calvin experience is related to the most challenging—to have a lifelong mindset that understands the intertwining of faith and practical knowledge of business operations. I have a recent example of how on-point the curriculum was regarding faith and business. Recently, a buddy of mine attended an entrepreneurial conference and so we were talking about it. He is also a man of faith. The conference had a session that asked if it was possible to have work-life balance and to find joy without faith. He said that his answer was no, and I agree: true joy and balance cannot be found without faith. Calvin explored, affirmed, and strengthened that truth. The conversation with my friend brought that realization front of mind.

I was also preparing to lead a men’s Bible study with a lesson on integrity. I was working on an exercise on integrity that could help them think through. As I was looking through my computer, I still had a folder from Professor Stansbury’s business ethics. His reflective best-self exercise gathered input from others on what were the most evident qualities they saw in us. It was ideal for my study. I reached out to thank him and was able to revisit my own experience. Again, rewarding. I even pulled up my classmate comments about me and was happy to feel that they are still relevant today.

What classes, professors or campus life experiences had the greatest impact on your personal development?

In addition to Professor Eames and Professor Stansbury, Professor Jen made such an impact on my personal and professional development. Professor Jen was my advisor and taught my first business class. Even before I got onto the business track, I could talk to him about everything! His door was open to students all the time. Even though he was there to teach knowledge as a professor, he was equally willing to counsel us on life—Calvin professors are so genuinely interested in supporting students.

How did your career path take shape and where do you see yourself going in the future?

As far as my career path and the shift away from architecture, I think my mom’s career as an emergency department nurse was a contributor to the direction that my business path followed. The medical and healthcare world was a big part of conversation at our house. My mom had so many crazy stories that most people would shy away from, especially while eating dinner. Still, after graduating, I tried a couple positions that showed me what I did not want to do with my degree.

My parents had also instilled that working in health care may not make you millions, for my mom especially, but it answered the call for helping others. God put people and connections in place that moved me into the business of health care. It immediately resonated and has been the perfect fit with my education. I love supporting physicians by taking the business responsibilities off their plates so that they can support their patients. I continue to look for ways to support those who feel the call to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Was your faith affected through your college years, and if so, how?

I have always had faith. Many can name an exact day that they were “saved” and knew Christ. For me it was a gradual journey that grew from childhood. Leaving home and finding myself in the college environment where the adults were such active faith examples gave me a safe place to ask questions and to be shepherded well. Because I had always naturally gravitated toward God, I took faith for granted. Calvin helped me “own it.” It was that conscious realization: I can say I believe it, but do I actually believe? How does that play out practically? That was raised a lot, across many classes. I saw plenty of times, such as in business ethics class: What does a person of faith do in that situation? Not many universities ask the hard questions and let students wrestle through it on their own. I was grateful for that freedom, and it strengthened my faith.

What advice and perspective would you give your high school self with what you know today?

In high school, I thought sports betting was a fun way to make money. Don’t do that. As far as starting college, know that you’ll be confronted with “it’s ALL up to me.” All your life, your parents, or teachers, are directing where you’re going, when, and what to do. Suddenly, I had to face that if I was late, it was all my fault and nobody else’s. If I missed something in class, once again, my fault! So, it’s easy not to take your work seriously because it’s fun to have complete freedom. I later felt like I needed to redeem myself for grades I could have done better on, and fortunately learned that lesson well.

I would also say be open minded. Be adaptable to change. As a senior, I thought I knew it all and how everything in my life would go. The truth is you don’t know much at all, and Calvin can help you with that. Also, don’t get stuck. Tell yourself that change is exciting and so are opportunities to explore new things. If you don’t like them, at least you know—better than not having tried.

If someone had told me then that I would be living across the country from my West Michigan roots I wouldn’t have believed that for a minute. The Lord has plans for you, and they probably aren’t what you think they are. When you feel clarity on something, it’s the Lord. Trust your gut feelings, that’s also God. It is easy to second guess, as my wife and I can attest from the journey that led us to Texas, but don’t second guess. By following what felt foreign, but clear, everything just fell together. Whether the Lord needed me in Texas or her, it turned out to be both of us.