Like any good enterprise, the Calvin business department has looked for growth opportunities, made investments for the future, sought to build its brand, and aspired to reach new goals.

But never before has the prospect to “dream big” been presented to the 14-member faculty as it was this spring with the announcement of a $22.25 million anonymous gift to launch the Calvin University School of Business.

“We were approached by the administration a year ago to begin thinking about the possibilities,” said Marilyn Stansbury, director of Calvin’s master’s of accounting program. “We had conversations about what would a school of business look like?”

Thinking big

A committee tasked with “thinking big” started with a vision statement built around excellence, engagement, and faithfulness. “We talked about being a Christian business school with a global impact,” said Stansbury. “Excellence in what we do is central to that. Engagement as a trusted partner in the west Michigan community and beyond; we want to be more recognized worldwide, animated by a Reformed Christian faith.”

Realizing that vision began with the need for additional space, leadership development, and the creation of innovative new academic programs—including developing new majors and launching new graduate and undergraduate programs.

All of this follows the trajectory the business department has been on since 2007, when the Calvin business and economics department separated to form two departments.

“At that time [in 2007] we were able to begin building our identity and take a different focus,” said business department co-chair Tom Betts.

The split was followed by the establishment of the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business (CCIB) in 2009, which was created to provide resources to support faculty scholar-ship, recruit projects for experiential learning, fuel curricular innovation, and to increase engagement with the business community.

Bob Eames, professor emeritus and director of the CCIB, said the center has provided many opportunities for students and gained visibility for the Calvin business program in the west Michigan community: “It serves as the Calvin representative at area business events and helps with networking in the community for experiential learning projects and internships.”

A refining of business degrees—leading to minors in entrepreneurship, supply chain management, and accounting and majors in marketing, human resource management, and finance to complement the existing accounting major, and the newest addition: financial planning—has also fueled growth in the department over the last decade.

Since becoming a distinct entity, the business department has seen its enrollment grow from 9% of the college total to 17% (including interdisciplinary degrees), with another 4.5% of students studying a business minor.

“Because we have been adding more majors, more students, more faculty, we have outgrown our space in North Hall,” said Stansbury.

A visual presence

The most visible use of the $22.25 million gift will be to construct the Calvin University School of Business building and to improve shared spaces in the DeVos Communication Center, the building to which the new school will be connected.

The 15,000-square-foot addition, to be completed by fall 2022, will house new offices, modern classrooms, contemporary breakout spaces, and large gathering areas, while also providing more recognition for the new school.

“This state-of-the-art facility will provide us with space that is more conducive to the group learning that we do,” said Betts. “And the physical presence will be making a statement to the community: We now have space for events, interviews, and other interactions.”

Beyond the benefits of the upgraded space, the facility provides identity for the business school and its students.

“This gives our majors a real sense of connectedness, as it provides a visual presence for the School of Business along with a place to easily find other business majors and faculty,” said Stansbury. “I’m really excited that this will be a place we can call home.”

A street level of the rendered School of Business building

Building for the next generation

The gift also provides significant endowment funds that will be used to support the new dean of the School of Business and business faculty. The purpose of the endowment is to serve as a catalyst for a number of new academic programs intended to serve new populations of students at Calvin.

New majors and programs of study, including master’s level, are under consideration.

“We get to be a part of building the curriculum for the next generation,” said Eames. “Wow, is that exciting! We were feeling pretty good about adding a supply chain minor and an entrepreneurship minor, and someone comes along and says, ‘No, dream bigger!’ We get to be that place where we’re challenging students to think deeply, act justly, and live wholeheartedly in business around the world.

“I think we all have a deep sense of gratitude to God for the way he continues to provide. When I think of our vision, there are a lot of business schools that are excellent, and a lot are engaged, but what sets us apart is faithfulness—our deep commitment to glorify God in everything we do. And we feel blessed and challenged to do even better.

“I’m more excited than I have ever been in my career,” continued Eames. “The possibilities for future generations of students is exciting, and I hope this has a catalytic effect on other schools at Calvin University. I hope it inspires donors to make this kind of investment in other areas because that’s what makes Calvin Calvin.”

New financial planning major

The Calvin University School of Business bachelor of science in financial planning (BSFP) has received registration approval from Certified Financial Planner (CFP) Board of Standards Inc. The addition of this new degree makes Calvin University one of a very small number of faith-based institutions in the United States to offer a CFP Board-registered financial planning program. Calvin expects its first BSFP class to graduate in May 2021.

The new financial planning major is a natural outcome of Calvin’s long-running strategy to deepen and diversify the degrees it offers. But it is also a direct response to interest from students who, over the years, have pursued financial planning careers long before the university offered a dedicated financial planning degree. And for years, Calvin’s interim (January term) course on personal finance has been one of the most in-demand on-campus interim courses at Calvin. It simply made sense to introduce the new major, said Dirk Pruis, associate professor of finance at Calvin University.

Calvin University student studying at her laptop

The financial planning major intentionally prepares students for the road to CFP certification, which requires them to complete coursework from a CFP Boardregistered program, take a national exam, and gain extensive work experience in the field.

The field of financial planning has changed significantly in the last decade, making it a more compelling career choice for students fresh out of college, according to Pruis. “The way that financial planners used to be compensated and introduced to the field made it a common choice for a second career, but not an easy option for new graduates,” he said. “But recent shifts in the industry along with a strong and growing demand for financial advisers means that it’s now a very appealing career choice for students who love both working with people and working with finance.”

Financial planning majors will find extensive support and career preparation before they graduate. Programs like Calvin Nexus Peer Financial Coaching give students an opportunity to put their learning into practice by counseling student clients in areas such as budgeting, saving, and investing, along with many others.

Pruis is excited about what the new major means for students. “There’s a great demand right now for faith-based financial planners—for financial advisers and counselors who share their clients’ values. That’s why I’m so excited about this new program: We have the ability to prepare students to make an incredibly tangible, positive difference in people’s lives. It’s not about accumulating wealth—it’s about doing good in the world with the resources God has entrusted to us.”