This past May, after the Calvin College Board of Trustees approved of Calvin becoming a university by 2020, we started getting a lot of questions. Why a university? What will it look like? Will Calvin lose its liberal arts focus? Lots of great questions, and while we are still determining exactly what Calvin University will look like, there are many reasons why this makes sense for Calvin at this time.

Calvin has evolved in many ways over time from a training ground for seminarians to an academy, then from a junior college to a residential liberal arts college. In 1970, Calvin College and Theological Seminary were encouraged by the Christian Reformed Church Synod to become a university. Between then and now, we’ve added several masters programs, increased our offerings of professional programs, and created several centers and institutes. Already, Calvin has many of the hallmarks of a university.

At the same time, our student population has become more diverse and international. To students in countries outside of the U.S., college means high school or junior college. University is where you study for a four-year degree or graduate degree. The change to university puts Calvin on the radar of potential international students.

The university structure also allows departments to be nimbler, allowing for more flexibility and innovation when it comes to majors. While there will still be a university-wide liberal arts core, departments, or perhaps colleges, will be able to expand and experiment with new ideas and areas of pursuit.

This summer there are two task forces of faculty and staff who are meeting to determine what the university structure will look like and what programs we will offer.

Many alumni identify the formative mentor-type relationships they had with professors as being integral to their Calvin education. We don’t want to lose that in our move to a university, and that is why residential on-campus learning will still be the core of what Calvin does. Becoming a university will allow us to broaden the scope of what a student will look like. It could include awarding associate degrees, expanding learning opportunities to the high school level, adding satellite campuses, or increasing our life-long and distance-learning opportunities.

Perhaps Calvin University will create more opportunities for you to think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.