Universe, meet Calvin University

Calvin College became Calvin University on July 10, 2019, the birthday of our namesake, 16th-century theologian John Calvin.

A new vision for Calvin builds on leaps of progress the college has made in recent years. 2019 will mark the final year of a five-year strategic plan through which we have built a strong foundation and prepared the college to pursue a larger vision for 2020–2030.

Over the past year our campus community has gathered to talk about our challenges and opportunities, in light of our strengths and our identity as an institution. Ultimately, we asked, “What will Calvin look like in 2030?”

As a result of community conversations, we created the following vision:

By 2030, Calvin will become a Christian liberal arts university with an expanded global influence. We envision Calvin University as a trusted partner for learning across religious and cultural differences and throughout the academy, the church, and the world. Calvin University will be animated by a Reformed Christian faith that seeks understanding and promotes the welfare of the city and the healing of the world. We welcome all who are compelled by God’s work of renewal to join us in the formative pursuits of lifelong learning, teaching, scholarship, worship, and service.

Why now, and why university?

Four key principles have moved Calvin toward adopting a university name and structure.

1. Cultivating Research & Scholarship
Calvin currently has three graduate programs as well as 11 centers and institutes. These are hallmarks of high-caliber universities worldwide and demonstrate our commitment to research and scholarship. As Calvin continues to expand in these areas, changing our name to Calvin University better reflects who we are.

2. Reaching Across Fields, Across Sectors
In the United States, the term “college” generally refers to a school focused on undergraduate studies in the liberal arts. While Calvin provides a liberal arts core to all students, about half of our graduates earn degrees in professional fields including engineering, nursing, and business. This is another instance in which becoming a university helps Calvin live into who we already are.

3. Launching Learners of All Credentials
Calvin’s expanded vision includes reaching new audiences. We will continue to do this through a variety of degree programs and potentially through certificates and other non-degree programs. Moving to a university model is a fitting way to support learning at all levels.

4. Fostering a Common Vocabulary
Internationally, the term “college” generally refers to a vocational school or two-year program. Changing our name will more accurately describe Calvin to prospective students and faculty research partners on a global scale.

Three ways we’ll grow

Calvin’s 2030 vision is full of innovation and possibilities. And while the details of this vision, and the path to achieve it, will be the job of the next strategic plan, we are excited about the vision’s three areas of focus:

University status

Calvin will become a university. In 2019, we will be known as Calvin University. That’s the initial step. But this transition will be about much more than a name change. Discussions are already underway about what structural and governance changes will help us expand what we do well and experiment with new directions.

In many ways the college already operates like a university, in organization and caliber. Renaming our institution as a university will enhance our reputation and more accurately reflect the depth and variety of our educational work to external audiences.

Trusted partner

Calvin University aims to grow as a trusted partner. We desire to be a sought-after source for knowledge and resources for curious learners all over the globe. We want to be able to come alongside groups of all different Christian traditions, all over the world and ask how we can best partner with them to promote flourishing in the world.

Historically, the Calvin community has had a deep expertise in a variety of areas that can be matched with needs in our city, in our nation, and places across the globe. In the coming years we will redouble our efforts to seek mutually beneficial relationships with communities and institutions to promote redemption, justice, and the truth of Christ.

We want to be able to come alongside groups from all different Christian traditions, in all cultural and global contexts, and ask how we can best partner with them to promote flourishing in the world.

Reformed identity

Calvin University aims to become the source for Reformed Christian thinking in the world. While it may be countercultural, we believe with all our heart that the world needs a Reformed Christian transformational vision.

Calvin has long aspired to honor God’s sovereignty over all things and to work in and under the broad, covenantal reach of Scripture. To that end, we are expanding on our commitment to teach from a Reformed Christian perspective to become a resource for Reformed Christian thought leadership.

True to our tradition

Calvin isn’t the same as it was five years ago. And certainly isn’t the same as it was 25, 50, or 100 years ago. Yet the core of who we are—the core of our mission—has and will remain consistent. In the midst of the promising changes underway, we also remain fully committed to the lasting hallmarks of a Calvin education.

Transforming minds in the liberal arts

Since 1876, we’ve been teaching students how to think. Students show up every semester to learn from courses in the humanities, arts, and sciences ... and they are amazed. Intrigued. Empowered. Many discover new, unexpected passions through the breadth and depth of subjects they explore. They graduate ready for their vocation and equipped to be Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.

Calvin’s faculty and staff are leading and innovating. We launch new graduate degree programs. We start centers and institutes for focused scholarship. We explore the unknown. We stand up for what’s right, good, and true. And we’ll keep doing that from now until 2030, and beyond.

Uncovering renewal in the world

“My heart I offer to you Lord” isn’t just a mental exercise—it’s a call to action. Our Christ-centered faith propels us to respond to the world’s brokenness with courage and conviction. And our knowledge equips us to listen and provide solutions.

So we go. We go to the contaminated watersheds, to the state prisons, to the rural hospitals in Nepal. This resolve is an innate part of who we’ve been and who we are becoming.

Thinking, learning, being Reformed

Creation. Fall. Redemption. These pieces illustrate the arc of God’s story for his people. And this story animates our mission. Every professor teaches from a distinctively Reformed perspective. Every student—yesterday, today, and tomorrow—graduates Calvin with an understanding of God’s sovereignty over all things.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a college and a university?

College generally refers to schools that serve only undergraduates with majors in the arts and sciences. While Calvin has a long tradition of offering strong majors in these disciplines, today about 50 percent of its students graduate with professional degrees in engineering, nursing, and business, to name a few. As such, Calvin seeks to reflect this growth and commitment to both the liberal arts and professional education by becoming Calvin University. Having recently added a masters of accounting to complement its masters degree offerings in education and speech pathology and audiology, we foresee serving more post-undergraduate students in the future.

How long has Calvin been discussing the name change?

The name change has been formally discussed at great length since 2017; however, the possibility of Calvin becoming a university has been talked about informally for decades.

The faculty senate and board of trustees approved and endorsed the name change in May of 2018, after more than nine months of collaborative strategic work taken on by the Calvin community. Stakeholders included students, who are among the leading proponents of the change.

What is the timeline for this change?

The name change will officially happen on July 10, 2019. This date is John Calvin’s birthday and falls conveniently close to the start of our 2019–2020 fiscal year.

The transition will be gradual and can be described in two phases. First, there are a number of things to do in order to change our name between now and July 10, 2019. They include legal work as well as changing exterior road signs, campus signage, and other pieces of our identity.

Then, once the name change happens, the university will need to live into structural and governance changes as part of the next strategic plan, which will commence in 2020. We are currently exploring different models of organization to determine the best way to nurture innovation and serve students in alignment with our mission.

What are Calvin’s graduate degree programs?
  • Master of Education (1976)

    The Master of Arts in Teaching was first offered in 1976. This has since evolved into Calvin College’s Graduate Studies in Education program, which offers a Master of Education in four formal degree concentrations: educational leadership, literacy, inclusion specialist, and curriculum and instruction.

  • Master of Speech Pathology and Audiology (2011)
  • Master of Accounting (2017)
What is the graduate student enrollment vs. undergraduate enrollment at Calvin?
  • Graduate student enrollment: 94
  • Undergraduate student enrollment: 3,746
Are there plans to offer more graduate programs in the years ahead?

Yes. While Calvin will continue to hold residential undergraduate education at its center, we will pursue an innovative vision that branches out from these roots and seeks to serve new audiences. We will provide programs that bridge the needs of high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, professionals in the middle of careers, and people interested in unaccredited learning, as in our CALL program. A Christian liberal arts approach to education will continue to undergird all of this work.

Should I change my résumé to reflect “Calvin University”?

Once our name changes, it’s up to you whether you change your résumé and social media profiles to reflect “Calvin University.” One suggestion would be to consider “Calvin University (formerly Calvin College)” to avoid confusion, but that is entirely up to you.

Based on the experiences of other institutions that went through this transition, there should not be any negative outcomes from keeping Calvin College on your résumé if that was the official name of the school when you graduated.

Will there be an option to replace my diploma?

Your diploma is a historical document that reflects the official name of the school when you graduated and does not need to be replaced. However, if you wish to purchase a new diploma that bears the name “Calvin University,” we will make that option available after the name change becomes official.

How will the name change affect Calvin’s rankings (e.g., U.S. News & World Report)?

The rankings already account for our program offerings, size, and location. The name change does not directly affect these factors.

Specifically, U.S. News & World Report follows the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and will likely change our classification from Regional Colleges to Regional Universities next year, regardless of our name.

How will Calvin’s logo and seal change?

Fortunately, Calvin’s new wayfinder logo that was introduced in 2014 will only need to receive a minor modification. “COLLEGE” will be replaced by “UNIVERSITY,” and all other elements of the logo will remain the same. The wayfinder symbol was designed in a way that allows us to find a “C” and “U” within it.

The Latin version of our heart-in-hand seal will change from “COLLEGIUM CALVINIANUM” to “UNIVERSITAS CALVINIANA.”

Calvin University Latin Seal
Calvin University Logo

Note: Since the release of Calvin’s new wayfinder logo in 2014, there has been speculation that it will replace the heart-in-hand seal. This is not the case. Many colleges and universities retain both a logo and a seal as part of their identity system, and that will remain the case for Calvin as well.

Was “John Calvin University” considered for the new name?

There was some sentiment among our constituency that favored adding “John” to “Calvin University,” mostly because of the way it rolls off the tongue and also due to the convenient acronym of “JCU.” After discussion and conducting informal focus groups we decided not to pursue this direction for the following reasons:

  • John Calvin University would naturally be shortened to JCU and, overtime, we may become known as JCU instead of Calvin. This does not provide any additional value to the school and decreases clarity, as several other JCU schools exist.
  • A lot of thought, discussion, and financial investment has gone into the implementation of our new logo. Replacing the word “COLLEGE” with “UNIVERSITY” is less costly than designing and implementing an entirely new logo.
  • While the college was named for John Calvin, the school has developed an identity that goes well beyond the man himself, including the ways in which we draw from the work of other Reformed theologians.
How will the name change impact doing business with Calvin?

The name “Calvin College” is retained by the institution as an assumed name, although Calvin University will be the primary name under which the institution is operating. Meaning, the institution has the full legal right to use either the name “Calvin College” or “Calvin University”.

This is a name change only. The Michigan non-profit entity is unchanged and retains the same Employer Identification Number and the same IRS non-profit and tax-exempt status. Because the “Calvin College” name will continue as a name under which Calvin may also still operate, and because this is not an assignment of the contract or a change of the underlying legal entity, there is no amendment required to agreements with the College to effectuate this name change.

We anticipate the name Calvin uses for any new contracts after July 10 will be “Calvin University”.


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