Faculty Profile: Professor Jason VanHorn, geography

Prof. Jason VanHorn is an expert in GIS, or
Prof. Jason VanHorn is an expert in GIS, or "digital mapping."

EDUCATION: PhD, The Ohio State University, geography
TEACHES: geography and GIS
COOL FACT: worked with Campus Crusade for Christ for six years before going to grad school
RESEARCH INTEREST: mapping terrorism

Prof. Jason VanHorn could easily be a computer geek, caught up in the fast-paced world of digital mapping and making six figures. 

But he’s not, and he doesn’t.  

He teaches at Calvin because of the way he’s able to talk about faith in the classroom. And also because of the quality of students he teaches.  

“I’ve never worked with students who care so deeply about people and place. They care about creation, they care about those who don’t have a voice,” he said.  


Emma DeVries spent three years as Prof. VanHorn’s student, first in GIS courses, then as his research/lab assistant, and finally as his assistant on a trip to Ethiopia.  

“He’s basically ruined me for all professors and bosses. He’s just so nice and supportive. And encouraging—that’s the number one word I would use to describe him,” she said.  


According to Emma, he’s more than just a nice prof. He knows his stuff, too.  

“He’s very brilliant. He’s not the type to drop names, but his PhD advisor [at The Ohio State University] is probably the most well-known geographer in the country.”  

At Calvin, the nicest professors can be the most challenging ones too, and Prof. Van Horn is no different. He has high expectations of his students and pushes them to create maps that show sophisticated data analysis in a visually compelling way. But again, as is typical at Calvin, the nicest, most challenging professors also work very hard to make learning accessible to students.  

“His care and his expertise come together in the fact that he writes his own labs and updates them every semester. Many GIS professors would simply use labs created by GIS companies, but he uses his abilities to be on the cutting edge of the technology and bring us to the cutting edge as well,” said Emma. 

VERGE: fall 2012

First-Year Experience