Reflections on Recent Global Travel Program Safari

Continuing a popular Global Travel Program offering, a group of alumni and friends went on a safari in Tanzania in May 2019.

I am writing to share with you my experience on one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on in my life – and I have been fortunate to visit over 45 countries during my career.

My wife, Gail, and I joined 26 other alumni and friends for a Tanzania Safari with the Hope College Alumni Association’s Global Travel Program. Going on safari has always been high on my “bucket list” and the idea of going with an award-winning wildlife photojournalist and other Hope alumni and friends was too good to miss. On all scores, the trip exceeded my lofty expectations – from wildlife viewing to cultural excursions to getting re-acquainted with a number of former classmates and fraternity brothers to meeting and making many new friends who share a common love for Hope College.

Tim Laman, a Hope College alumnus and National Geographic photographer was a co-leader on the trip.

The trip was well organized by Pat Van Wylen, who did a fabulous job with logistics before and during our excursion. She was ably joined by ornithologist, professor emeritus, and founder of Birder’s World Magazine, Eldon Greij, as well as distinguished alumnus, Tim Laman ’83. I cannot hope to compare to the quality of Tim’s work. You can see for yourself on Instagram, where he now has over one million followers! Eldon and Tim were so gracious in imparting their vast knowledge and experience that it made the trip a phenomenal learning opportunity.

Tanzania is ranked as one of the best African countries for safaris. It is not hard to see why. With almost a third of Tanzania protected for wildlife, viewing opportunities were endless. We followed what is called the northern safari circuit, where we witnessed an amazing array of wildlife and enchanting landscapes. This program was designed to maximize animal viewing and it more than accomplished that goal from dawn to dusk each day. The trip also included a number of cultural experiences designed to provide insights into the history, people and culture of Tanzania.

We experienced a wide variety of ecosystems with unique habitats. We traveled from forest and woodlands with scattered lakes, ponds and wetlands, to wooded savannah where trees and grasslands are interspersed, and finally, to grasslands — both short and tall — culminating in the Serengeti. What an amazing place! But I am getting ahead of myself. One of the points that Eldon and Tim kept emphasizing was to stay in the present moment. Don’t anticipate what is to come next – you never know what is just around the bend of the road.

After flying into Schiphol airport in the Netherlands (how appropriate) from various parts of the US, we flew as a group into Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha, Tanzania where we stayed at the African Tulip, a luxury boutique hotel.

Colobus monkeys were an early highlight of the trip.

Our first full day in Africa was spent at Arusha National Park with habitats varying from wetlands to ponds and forests. Eldon was in his happy place because we saw so many different varieties of birds, including flamingos, herons, stilts and plovers. We also saw baboons – including a rare albino – along with zebras, giraffes, buffalo and monkeys. The highlight was watching the huge black and white Colobus monkeys that are unique to this particular area.

Mama Gladness welcomes the group at the Tengeru Cultural Center.

The next day began at the Tengeru Cultural Tourism Center where we learned about the Meru people and examined coffee and banana cultivation within a facility that captures, recycles and produces its own biogas. Not only did we get to share a meal, but we followed the coffee harvesting, roasting and grinding process all the way through to enjoying a fresh cup with Mama Gladness and our new friends.

We then moved onto Tarangire National Park. Tarangire has biodiversity not found elsewhere in the northern circuit. We spent two days where the Baobab trees dotted the landscape and there was an abundance of excellent wildlife viewing. The waterbuck, impala and gazelle became commonplace along with large elephant groups. We spotted lions, watched a leopard stalking a warthog and a Goliath heron perched on a rock in the river.

Flamingos in the Lake Manyara region.

We next moved on to spend two days exploring the enchanting Lake Manyara National Park. Ernest Hemingway once called this area the “loveliest place in Africa.” The park, with its phenomenal assortment of wildlife, is set up against the imposing huge western wall of the Great Rift Valley. The forest, lake and wetlands are home to a diversity of bird species so vast that it was hard to keep up on the ornithology lessons from Eldon. We spent our nights at The Retreat at Ngorongoro, a gorgeous new lodge at the top of the western wall. While there we visited the Iraqw to learn about their culture and history and to tour a nearby hill-side home. We witnessed a traditional marriage ceremony and some of our group had the opportunity to ‘renew’ vows.

A lioness and her cubs encounter the travelers.

Next, we were off to Ndutu Lake, within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. It lies on the southern edge of the Serengeti plains and is filled with Acacia trees. We spent the night at the Ndutu Safari Lodge. The area is famous for cheetah and grazing mammals, such as wildebeest, zebras and gazelles, all of whom are at home in the short grass plains of this region. And, sure enough, Ndutu did not disappoint. On the drive in, we encountered two male lions relaxing under some trees near the lodge.

The group finds itself suddenly in the middle of the Great Migration.

The next day we were up before the sun to see if could observe cats on the move. And observe we did. We were not half a mile down the trail before encountering a pregnant lion out hunting. After an encounter with our two males again, we happened upon a group of two females and six kittens at a watering hole. While photographing these beautiful creatures, our guide spotted what he suspected was a cheetah chasing a wildebeest. We arrived just as the cat took down its prey. As we sat in the middle of the vast plain, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of the Great Migration as thousands of zebras and wildebeest came thundering out of the trees on the surrounding hillside and began to fill up the surrounding area from horizon to horizon. It was an awe inspiring site to say the least.

A leopard on the hunt.

We then spent two days exploring Serengeti National Park, the preeminent park in East Africa and home to more than 2 million large mammals, including the big cats — lions, leopards and cheetahs. We spent two nights at the elegant Serengeti Serena Lodge. Where else in the world are you going to suddenly encounter a female cheetah and her six kittens resting in the shade of an Acacia tree? Or a pregnant leopard sleeping on a branch of a tree? Or another out stalking prey in the tall grass?

A panorama of Oldupai Gorge.

On our way to the Ngorongoro Highlands, we visited Olduvai Gorge (although we were instructed that the correct name is Oldupai – after the plant that grows there). The site is famous for early hominid findings from the team of Louis and Mary Leakey. A fascinating and well done museum has just been opened on the site and we were treated to a lecture and overview of the history of the site by the museum director.

After a couple of hours touring the Gorge, we move from one UNESCO World Heritage Site to another. At the top of the highlands sits the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, a collapsed caldera that is the largest in Africa. We packed a picnic lunch and descended from the beautiful Ngorongoro SOPA Lodge, located on the crater rim, into the spacious crater floor, where an absolutely incredible experience with wildlife awaited us.

The beauty of Ngorongoro Crater from the rim.
A single lion battles with a herd of buffalo in Ngorongoro Crater.

Over the course of the next few hours, we witnessed several hunts and attempted hunts between lions, buffalo and hyenas. At one point, we were positioned in between two very different encounters. On our right, two packs of hyenas were attacking a buffalo calf that had become separated from its mother and the herd. The buffalo tried for the longest time to fend off the attack, but was simply out numbered. On our left, we witnessed the sight of a young male lion that somehow found itself surrounded by an angry herd of buffalo that began hooking the helpless cat and throwing it into the air over and over again. It is amazing that the lion survived the repeated attacks and continued to fight back. After 15 minutes or so, the buffalo abandoned the cat. But we were not finished. One of our vehicles spotted another hunt underway with two lionesses stalking a small buffalo herd. A seeming stalemate ensued until four more from the pride arrived to join in the hunt. It didn’t take long after that for the buffalo to fall. We watched in astonishment.

Tim Laman summed up everyone’s sentiments for the day: “At times these scenes were not pleasant to watch, I will admit. Nature can be harsh. But it was real, and it was amazing to witness the cycle of life in a place that is still wild. We need places like that on earth, and it is good for us to visit them. As Tennyson wrote, on this day, we truly witnessed nature red in tooth and claw.”

Students from the school in Tanzania sign the national anthem.

We also visited a Maasai school in the area that Hope College groups have been financially supporting for the past few years. We also brought a number of gifts such as soccer balls, frisbees, jump ropes and other toys for the children to play with. It was fun to play with such an energetic group of students. We visited classrooms where we exchanged songs. In spite of our best efforts, we were totally outclassed by the students singing the Tanzania national anthem. They were beautiful.

The trip faces rain-soaked roads toward the end of their journey.

But our adventure was not over. There is no pavement on the roads around the rim of the crater. Given that the rim is quite often in the clouds during this the rainy season, the volcanic soil turns into a deep, red, slippery mud. Our drive up the night before had been harrowing enough, but two more days of wet made the drive even more treacherous. We attempted to get permission to go out via the park, but we were denied. So . . . we forged on. This is where you really appreciate the skills and experience of our guides from Roy Safaris. Although one of our vehicles did indeed become stuck trying to avoid another vehicle mired in the mud, they were able to free both from the mess.

On our final morning before heading to the airport for our flights home, many of us visited the Plaster House. Plaster House is the home of the Rehabilitative Surgery Program of the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre in Northern Tanzania. It was established in 2008 to provide a unique and loving home away from home for children receiving pre- and post-operative care and rehabilitation for a surgically correctable disability. It was truly a moving experience to see these children and their families recovering from surgeries to correct club feet, harelip and cleft palates that had hindered them from leading a normal life.

Leaders and guides from the trip pose for a photo before returning home.

I leave you with this picture of our fearless leaders. Our amazing guides are decked out in Hope College track warm ups. From left to right are: Hussein, Tim Laman, Niko, Pat Van Wylen, God Bless, Eldon Greij and Moses.

I cannot recommend highly enough that you check out the opportunity to participate in a future program. New Zealand with Dave Van Wylen and Croatia with John Tammi are two destinations currently open for registration. It is a great way to re-engage with your alma mater.

Spera in Deo!

Hope College Roommates Build a Local Community of Merchants and Makers

Merchants and Makers at the Civic Center

Couple plays instruments outside
Plain Jane Glory is a husband and wife duo from West Michigan.

On Sunday, June 23, over 60 Merchants and Makers will gather in the recently renovated Holland Civic Center. Shoppers and party goers will gather to stroll the booths, snack at the food trucks, grab a drink at the bar and listen to music by Plain Jane Glory.

This isn’t your grandmother’s bazaar, although she would probably have a blast. It’s Etsy in person. It’s a curated party of handmade goodness. It’s a new generation of craft fair and it’s a growing movement that has more than doubled in size and number since it started just two years ago.

It also wouldn’t be happening if Hope College Residential Life and Housing hadn’t paired up Shyle Edelmayer ’07 Lyons and Meghan Follen ’07 French as roommates in Dykstra Hall when they arrived at Hope in the fall of 2003. They first met during Orientation at their residence hall check-in and became fast friends. Their parents all went to high school in Grand Haven and they both had grandfathers who played football at Hope. Shyle and Meghan went on to live in Gilmore Hall and VanDreiser Cottage before graduating and pursuing their own professional interests.

Shyle Edelmayer ’07 Lyons and Meghan Follen ’07
Shyle Lyons and Meghan French reminisce outside of their old residence hall.

Shyle worked at Bethany Christian Services in foster care, Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer coordinator and with a YMCA after school program. Meghan’s career focused on graphic design, marketing and special events. When Shyle moved to San Diego, Meghan moved into her apartment in Grand Haven.

It was in San Diego when Shyle attended maker’s arcades and realized that the craft fair concept could be a lot more fun. She had a vision for events that would create community and be more enjoyable for shoppers and vendors alike. In a world of Target and Amazon, she realized that people craved an experience where they could meet the people that make food, drinks and goods locally.

After Shyle moved back to Michigan she teamed back up with Meghan to host the first Merchants and Makers at Watermark Church in February of 2017. They have since incorporated, grown to host events in all seasons that draw up to 75 vendors and 1,400 shoppers. Each event has a unique location, group of artists, music, food and drink. They have continued to grow and support a community of artists, who gather once a month to talk marketing, social media, product photography and pricing strategies and to encourage one another. They focus on collaboration over competition and always have room to welcome new makers.

They look back at their experience at Hope College, and their old scrapbook shown below, with nostalgia. They recognize that they first learned about purpose and calling at Hope. They have taken those lessons to heart as they have followed interests and talents that light them up and meet a need in the community. They also learned to be adaptable and open-minded and about the importance of  building community.

Their advice for students today is to spend more time creating, taking more than just required courses. They encourage everyone to explore interests and passions and remind students to be open-minded about where life can take them. Shyle went from social work and foster care to selling clothes, to motherhood, to heading down a completely different path with Merchants and Makers. She has a degree in social work that she may never directly use again. However, she shares that it isn’t any less valuable. The skills she learned in public service she now applies to creating new communities and new markets.

If you’d like to see this community in action, check out the Merchants and Makers event at the Holland Civic Center on Sunday, June 23 from 12 to 5 pm. There is a $3 entry at the door. Cash and cards are accepted. Shyle and Meghan can’t wait to meet you there.

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Seven Arts Alumni Share Lessons Learned at Hope and in New York City

Hope College provides instruction and experience in every major arts program. In fact, Hope was the first private, liberal arts college to hold national accreditation in art, dance, music and theater. Perhaps it is not surprising that a visit to New York City, which has been a shining theatrical center since electricity first hit Broadway in the 1880s, would put you in contact with Hope College alumni on stage, behind the scenes and, in some cases, programming the lights.

The energy of Times Square and the Theater District light up mid-town Manhattan.

One out of every ten Hope graduates majors in the arts and they are twice as likely than their counterparts to live in New York. While they each have unique stories, they also have common experiences. Some were encouraged to apply for a Distinguished Artist Award scholarship when they first considered Hope. Others met a unique blend of distinguished professionals and young artists from all over the country when they participated in Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (HSRT). Still others benefited from Hope’s connections to the Great Lakes College Association and the NY Arts Program, putting their creativity to work with an immersive internship and seminar experience in NYC.

On a recent trip to the city, I had the opportunity to meet seven of these graduates and learn important lessons from their lives after Hope College.

Meet the Alumni

Susan Checklick ’97 on a phone in wardrobe room.
Susan Checklick ’97 preps for a Dear Evan Hansen performance.
Marquee of The Music Box Theatre
The Music Box Theatre

Susan Checklick ’97 is a self-professed jack of all trades, master of none. With 20 years of experience on Broadway as a wardrobe supervisor, she floats between HR manager, professional shopper, tailor, team builder, pants-presser and counselor. Currently, she sets up shop below deck at the Music Box Theatre. Established by Irving Berlin in 1919, it is now home to the award-winning musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Her prior experience includes Tuck Everlasting, Newsies, Matilda and In the Heights. She credits faculty mentors like Michelle Bombe and Perry Landes for identifying her talent and providing her a safe place to explore prior to returning to New York.

Lindsey Ferguson ’09 in Manhattan.

Lindsey Ferguson ’09 is a dynamic freelance performer with experiences ranging from aerial trapeze, Broadway magic in The Illusionist, performances at Radio City Music Hall, television and film appearances like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and immersive theatre with Third Rail Projects. She moved to New York 11 years ago after auditioning through a connection from a visiting professor. Inspired by her faculty, she also has intentionally sought out teaching opportunities, including at Joffrey Ballet School, Hope College and Montclair State University. While a dance major, theatre at Hope College was a big part of her life. She even met her fiancé while a cast member with HSRT.

Isaac Bush ’09 on the High Line near Hudson Yards.

Isaac Bush ’09 is from a third generation Hope family and has used the stage to launch from Muskegon, Michigan to experiences in London, Brazil, China and across the United States. He credits his student role with Rose and the Rime for the trajectory of his career. This nationally acclaimed play developed at Hope in 2007 has inspired his training at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London as well as his founding of the Circle Theater of New York. From using Hansel and Gretel to tell the story of child soldiers in the Middle East, to exploring the intersection of media and populism, his work uses theater to examine the consequences of our actions and how they affect the most vulnerable in society.

Jeremy Lydic ’02 in Union Square.

Jeremy Lydic ’02 was a football player in Iowa when he discovered his true passion for music and theatre. Focusing on this, he chose to attend Hope. He studied abroad in London and gained experience as a production assistant. After graduation, he moved to New York with fellow alumni to become a singer and director. After being on stage as much as he could and singing in choirs and experimental operas, he decided to focus on backstage skills first learned at Hope. His career grew to include work with the Public Theater, Einstein on the Beach, Pomegranate Arts and his own design and production company. He has worked on over 60 Broadway productions, including Book of MormonSomething Rotten and Cats, and has toured internationally in over twelve countries.

Nathan Hart stands in front of a white church.
Nathan Hart ’01 at Stanwich Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Nathan Hart ’01 went from performing in plays to preaching in pulpits. He was a student of the religion, communication and theatre departments at Hope but discovered his true self through theatre. Upon urging from a faculty member, he attended Princeton Seminary after graduating. Internship experiences, including with the Yankees team chaplain and with Bible studies on Wall Street, shaped his vocational interests and built an important network. He took his first call to a congregation on Long Island and then worked with students on the Upper East Side. Eight years ago, he responded to a call back to pastoral ministry at Stanwich Church in Greenwich, Connecticut. He recently became its senior pastor.

Lydia Ruth Dawson ’13

Lydia Ruth Dawson ’13 knew she could start a successful career in New York after she danced with the Joffrey Ballet as a Hope College sophomore. It didn’t hurt that she was an English literature and musical theater composite double major with dance and Spanish minors where she broadened her skill set and was encouraged to grow. She has performed with American Ballet Theater, appeared in film and over 20 regional theater productions, danced in three off-Broadway shows and has been on a national tour with Cirque BELIEVE. You can find her working at SoulCycle, dancing at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center when she returns from St. Louis where she is currently performing in The Boy from Oz.

Megan stands on a street ini New York City.
Megan Mills ’99 on her way to work.

Megan Mills ’99 moved into Kleinheksel Cottage with a group of transfer students when she came to Hope as a junior. She knew she was forming lifelong friendships immediately. With her time at Hope limited, she got involved with chapel and the theatre department. She graduated and moved to New York where she worked “survivor jobs” alongside backstage roles on Broadway and Off-Broadway. For eight years she created, directed, taught and studied improv. Then, at the age of 30 and within a year of getting married, she had a stroke. One year later she had open heart surgery. She credits her journey to a healthy recovery to a deep-rooted faith planted at Hope and a little improvisation.

Lessons Learned

No matter how their journey brought them to the city that never sleeps, they all had a common starting point at Hope College. It served as a foundation of curiosity, identity development and practical experience that they continue to build on today.

Curiosity

These graduates were clearly influenced by an intentional liberal arts approach to education. They have developed a wide base of knowledge and an intense desire to know and to understand.

“Lindsey Ferguson believes her range of knowledge across history, religion and culture makes her more than just a talented dancer, but a smart dancer.”

Lindsey Ferguson ’09

Lindsey Ferguson believes her range of knowledge across history, religion and culture makes her more than just a talented dancer, but a smart dancer. She can share wisdom and opinions on her craft, providing her a seat at the table when decisions are made. Likewise, Isaac Bush’s journey has been invigorated by the liberal arts, allowing him to find solutions to problems, such as limited funding for the arts, with approaches inspired by other industries. Lydia Ruth Dawson feels that her job as an actor is to convey truth.  Her varied exposure to history, literature, science, art and faith allows her to more believably convey characters onstage.

This has provided them all with an incredible ability to adapt to the challenges of their industry. Lindsey’s freelance career requires a constant flux from gig to gig. Isaac faced limitations in casting in the United States and realized that on an international stage he could stand out. Jeremy Lydic had a well-rounded education beyond acting and singing. This allowed him to use design, stagecraft, electronics and crew skills in ways that made him marketable and created a network in the industry. Megan Mills explored life’s possibilities through improv. She learned to listen, adapt, encourage and question. She sees parallels between the improv stage and faith, sharing that “when we jump in to help each other through life’s rough patches we can  create something better and move forward.”

Identity Development

Each of these graduates had glimmers of passion for the arts during their youth. Susan Checklick loved to sew with her mom and later merged this with a love for theatre when she became a wardrobe supervisor. Lindsey Ferguson remembers dancing in the living room as a toddler. After growing up in a small town in upstate New York, she found out about Hope College and continued to dance here. Nathan Hart credits the theatre department at Hope as helping him discover his true self. When he was young he thought of acting as pretending, but at Hope realized that acting comes from a place of truth and from answering questions like, “who am I really?”

The career can be brutal with rejection on a weekly basis as agents tell you who you should be. In this environment, these alumni shared the importance of knowing who you are at a deeper level. They know that uniqueness as an individual is what makes them an artist. Lindsey recognizes that she needs to be open to others having influence on her creative vision, but ultimately knows the story she wants to tell is her own. Isaac Bush reflects on his identity as a white male and the responsibility he feels to incorporate different voices and advocate for those that are marginalized.

In addition to understanding themselves, these graduates know the importance of being part of a community.

Alumni gather at a recent event with President-Elect Matt Scogin.

Susan’s friendships within the theatre community on Broadway are her favorite part of her work. Her strongest moments, like those on stage, are when she connects with others as human beings. Lindsey sees her art as a gift and responsibility to others. The phrase, “it takes a village”, recurs constantly. Nathan acknowledges that the Hope network is far more scarce in New York than it is in the Midwest. This makes the awareness of that network and the importance of community building even more meaningful. In addition, Lydia Ruth Dawson believes her ability to adapt quickly, find balance and create community is invaluable as she constantly tours around the country. As a transfer student with only two years at Hope, Megan Mills learned to jump in to communities as soon as you can. She says, “the time you have with those around you might be short, but with intention they become people you couldn’t imagine doing life without.”

Practical Experience

Finally, many of their journeys included practical, hands-on learning experiences and a desire for even more business training.

Susan Checklick ’97 stands in front of the site of her first internship, located just around the corner from where she works today.

With a chuckle, Susan Checklick said, “the only thing they didn’t teach me in school was Excel spreadsheets.” Isaac Bush envisions future programs on campus that pair business students with arts majors to work on interdisciplinary projects. His advice to future artists is to take business classes. He knows they are not the exciting classes theatre majors want to take, but acknowledges that they are necessary to keep art available and affordable. In his words, ‘you need business acumen to survive.”

“There is no such thing as failing. There is only learning.”

Susan also goes so far as to say that there is no such thing as failing. There is only learning. With just 27 shows operating on Broadway, there is limited demand for her work at that level. She credits internships and summer work as what has helped her to stand out. Jeremy Lydic encourages others to explore curiosities and interests, adding “you never know when they may lead to job opportunities or creative relationships.” Nathan Hart had internship experiences that opened his eyes to how the world works beyond the classroom. He thinks of them daily. As she reflects back on her years at Hope College, Lydia Ruth Dawson sees Hope as a “lovely bubble,” acknowledging that it only prepares you if you get out of it from time to time to see what you need to be prepared for.

Hope Grad Co-Authors Amicus Brief and Attends Arguments at Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear a trust tax case that has significant implications for states and trust beneficiaries. A Hope College graduate, Raj A. Malviya ’02, was part of a prestigious group of eight other national trust and estate experts who drafted and filed the amicus brief. He attended oral arguments at the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. on April 16.

The question posed in North Carolina Department of Revenue v. the Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust is: Does the due process clause prohibit states from taxing trusts based on trust beneficiaries’ in-state residency? Hundreds of millions of dollars of annual tax revenue hang in the balance.

Raj’s involvement is remarkable, considering he is at a relatively early point in his career. However, for those that know him, they aren’t surprised.

Raj on Supreme Court steps
Raj Malviya ’02 on the steps of the Supreme Court on April 16 when he was in Washington D.C. for oral arguments.

Raj has been practicing law since 2005, focusing on estate and tax planning. Today he is a partner at Miller Johnson in Grand Rapids, MI. He is well versed in all aspects of planning for families with foreign ties as well as working with clients like business owners, licensed professionals, film and music artists, public figures and diplomats.

He is involved in a number of professional associations, including the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, and several sections with the Grand Rapids Bar Association.  He is also a member of the Society of Trusts & Estates Professionals. In 2014, he was appointed to the State Bar of Michigan Probate and Estate Planning Council and was selected from among many qualified candidates across the country to be a Fellow in the American Bar Association Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law.

Raj Malviya '02 in his office.
Raj Malviya ’02

Raj is a fellow with the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, a group of peer-elected trust and estate attorneys from across the United States and abroad. His previous involvement with this group includes being selected as a member of the ACTEC Foundations Young Leaders Program. In 2017, he was elected a fellow by their Board of Regents.

As an advocate for diversity, he was also the co-founder and past president of the South Asian Bar Association of Michigan and served as the Michigan Liaison to the North American South Asian Bar Association where he helped form their Tax Section made up of attorneys, educators, law students and other professionals. In addition, he is an alumnus of the Fellows Program of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.

In 2016, Raj was one of West Michigan’s young professionals honored by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in their “40 Under Forty.”

Prior to this prestigious start to his career and true to a liberal arts background, Raj was a biology and business administration major at Hope College. He was also a member of the Omicron Kappa Epsilon fraternity and the men’ tennis team on which he held a 55-22 career record in singles and a 46-18 career record in doubles.

After Hope, he went on to earn his LL.M. in Taxation from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and his JD from Valparaiso University School of Law.

This trust income tax case is already getting national attention from a variety of media outlets including Forbes and Bloomberg.

For his part, Raj had this to say about the experience, “It was a privilege to collaborate with national experts on the ACTEC brief. The fiduciary income tax nexus rules across the states are nowhere close to being uniform and vary considerably in scope. Our goal was to provide education to the Court and focus the issues that govern this complex area of tax law. We felt that our brief made a meaningful impact in the case.”

Frances Traisman ’89 Gets Ready for MLB Opening Day in Tokyo, Japan

Joe DiMaggio once said that Opening Day for Major League Baseball is “like a birthday party when you’re a kid.” For generations, the day has symbolized a fresh start and a sure sign of spring. This year, for one Hope College alumna, opening day will start early. Really early.

On March 20 at 2:35 AM Pacific Daylight Time, eight days and several hours before the rest of the league, Frances Schrock ’89 Traisman will be cheering on the Seattle Mariners as they play an international opener in the Tokyo Dome against the Oakland Athletics.

The Mariners have been connected to Japan since Nintendo purchased a majority of the team in 1992. They have had Japanese players on the roster every year since 1996. That is the same year that Frances Traisman was hired. Now as Senior Vice President of Sales, the former Hope College English major oversees business development and revenue generation through ticket sales, corporate partnerships, sponsorships, radio broadcast sales, customer engagement and analytics.

Frances Schrock ’89 Traisman

After graduation in 1989, Frances spent a year in China teaching English to college students in Hangzhou. A fellow teacher she met there encouraged her to move to Washington, D.C. She eventually landed a ticket sales job at the US Senior Open golf tournament at Congressional Country Club. She loved it. After the tournament, she and her husband, Cliff, packed up a moving truck and their yellow Labrador, Tuco, and headed for Washington (state this time). There, they started a family and their new careers.

Now in her 23rd year with the Seattle Mariners, Frances shares that she enjoys the benefits of her liberal arts education every day. “In our ever-changing world, having broad knowledge of a variety of subjects has made it easier to navigate the changes,” says Traisman who was part of Sigma Sigma and the Vienna Summer School during her Hope days. “Whether evaluating capital improvement projects, researching business development opportunities, or making sales presentations, I draw on a variety of skills and experiences gained at Hope.”

The connections she made while at Hope have also been instrumental in determining where she is today. Her travels to China were at the suggestion of a fellow Hope graduate, and she was introduced to her husband by one of her best friends from Hope. While she has been geographically separated from Hope for a long time, the Hope community continues to play a strong and supportive role in her life.

“Smart people with a curious nature and a broad familiarity of how the world is connected are key – and those are the type of graduates Hope produces.”

As she thinks about today’s students, she says “there are tremendous opportunities in sports and entertainment, especially in the world of data analytics. While it’s important to have someone to write code and structure data, it is as important, if not more so, to have people who can bring the data to life and use it to recommend improvements. Smart people with a curious nature and a broad familiarity of how the world is connected are key – and those are the type of graduates Hope produces.”

Frances’s advice to students interested in a career like hers is to do your research and talk to as many people as you can. Many opportunities exist in sports management, you just need to find the one that fits you.

Wake up early, brew some coffee and tune in to the opening games in Japan on March 20 & 21 on ESPN at 5:35 AM EDT.

Hope Alumni Bring Unique Perspectives to the Tech Industry

One of the best parts of my job is meeting some of Hope’s 33,000 alumni on their home turf. With graduates living in all 50 states and over 80 countries around the world, the opportunities for connections are endless. Whether it’s entrepreneurs from Nairobi, newly found connections in Tokyo or young alumni making their mark in Chicago, it is inspiring to meet alumni as they pursue lives of leadership and service in a global society.

This exciting professional privilege reached new heights during a trip last fall to California and Washington State. In part because of a new partnership between the office of Alumni Engagement and the new Boerigter Center for Calling and Career, my goal was to establish connections with alumni in technology to share with current students on campus.

We have over 1,750 alumni living in states with Pacific shores. As you might expect, a fair number, over 600 in fact, live in the San Francisco and Seattle areas. Many of them, also as you might expect, work in the tech industry. This was the focus of my trip.

I had a great visit with Eva at Joanie’s Cafe. Her story of creating community within her field is inspiring.
I had a great visit with Eva at Joanie’s Cafe. Her story of creating community within her field is inspiring.

After Lyft rides during the first 24 hours in the Bay Area in two Lexuses, a Mercedes and a BMW, I knew I was not in Holland, Michigan anymore. My first appointment was in downtown Palo Alto with Eva Gaumond ’90. She has had an accomplished career as a user experience (UX) leader, often fostering collaboration and utilizing empathy she learned as a psychology major at Hope to get to the heart of user needs. After moving to the area and wishing there were more professional development opportunities in her field, she simply created them herself, co-founding a now 2,400 member non-profit professional UX organization from the ground up. It was an impressive start to my day.

Facebook’s new headquarters, MPK20.
Part of Facebook’s new headquarters, MPK21.

After breakfast, I made the short six mile trip out to Facebook’s new headquarters, MPK20. Designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry, the 430,000-square-foot space, spread over 22 acres, is LEED-certified and boasts a 9-acre green roof (complete with work cabanas) and underground parking lot. While entering this compound of an office building was a unique experience, what made it even more meaningful was connecting with a friend now working inside.

I first met David Moore ’10 when he was an intern in the alumni office. From there he joined the Canadian digital marketing and e-commerce team at Gordon Food Service in Grand Rapids before moving to Philadelphia to work at a start-up using machine learning to personalize websites and apps. Now David counts himself fortunate to live in San Francisco where he works in product management on video products at Facebook. We were joined for lunch by another Hope alumnus, Josh Metzler ’99, who has been a software engineer at Facebook for the last seven years. A chemistry and religion major while at Hope, Josh is a self-taught coder who has now been working for the world’s largest social media company for longer than most of its 25,000 employees.

Facebook employees and Hope College alumni, David Moore ’10 and Josh Metzler ’99, take a break to talk about their Hope College experiences.
Facebook employees and Hope College alumni, David Moore ’10 and Josh Metzler ’99, take a break to talk about their Hope College experiences.

The Indian cuisine at Facebook is legit. Over naan and tandoori chicken we discussed how a liberal arts background has shaped how they solve problems at work. They shared that Hope gave them the freedom and supportive community to be curious. Then David told me this story: A friend of his visited during a semester off at Harvard and attended a class at Hope with him. Afterwards the friend remarked, “that was a better class than I’ve experienced yet in Cambridge – intimate, thoughtful, engaging.” At the time, David wasn’t sure he believed him. Now, after applying his Hope experience in Menlo Park, he thinks he does.

“Hope gave them the freedom and supportive community to be curious.”

Influenced by courses like creative writing and religion, these Facebook staffers talked about technology as being about understanding the deeper needs people have – some they can share, some that they can’t. Their work is focused on bringing the world closer together and understanding people’s perspectives. This way of thinking not only makes for a better interface on an app, but also helps to figure out how machine learning can help identify bad actors.

Golden Gate Bridge
After an evening enjoying some of the sights in San Francisco, I spent the next day connecting with alumni at Google and Tesla. At the Googleplex in Mountain View, a gathering of Hope alumni Googlers met over breakfast. In a testament to the longevity and relevancy of a liberal arts background, we had graduates from each of the last five consecutive decades represented.

Crossing the commencement stage back in Holland with dates ranging from 1979 to 2018, these product directors, software engineers and recruiting coordinators compared notes on what can help a graduate of this decade stand out. The consensus was that students should articulate the soft skills they have developed through a liberal arts education — skills like teamwork, problem solving and communication — alongside demonstrated hard skills developed through experiences like coding competitions, proficiency in programming and scripting languages.

“Students should articulate the soft skills they have developed through a liberal arts education — skills like teamwork, problem solving and communication.”

Google employees outside the Googleplex headquarters.
Karl Rasche ’00 (Senior Software Engineer), Ron Heiby ’79 (Technical Program Manager), Chris Turkstra ’93 (Product Director for Google Assistant), Douglas Van Wieren ’88 (Software and Site Reliability Engineer), and Josias Sanon ’18 (Recruiting Coordinator).

Later in the day, at a new Tesla office building in North Bay, you could sense the fast pace of innovation. There I connected with Blair Williams ’10 and Randy Johnson ’07. They shared how the undergraduate research program and international exchange programs sparked their interest in language and culture and opened the door for graduate experiences at places like Stanford, which in turn opened doors in Silicon Valley. They also shared how a liberal arts background has helped them to be well-rounded and not just technical. Through experiences at Hope they were able to wrestle with philosophical, societal, and spiritual questions, improve writing and communication skills, and becoming well prepared for working on cross-functional teams. The icing on the cake was the personal relationships with research advisors and senior seminar professors that turned into personal friendships which have shaped their lives in immeasurable ways.

“A liberal arts background has helped them to be well-rounded and not just technical.”

Blair Williams '10 and Randy Johnson '07 at Tesla.
Blair Williams ’10 and Randy Johnson ’07 at Tesla.

After two hours in flight over the peaks of Mt. St Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier, I landed in Seattle. Among other alumni and employer connections, I met Thao Le ’11. Today she is a senior financial analyst at Amazon. Just a few years ago she was an international student at Hope College from Vietnam. While at Hope she majored in accounting and had internships at The Stow Company and Perrigo. Her first job after Hope was with Deloitte in Seattle working on an audit team. Traveling frequently while working with international teams at Amazon, she now uses leadership development and cross-cultural skills honed at Hope as a member of Mortar Board, Phelps Scholars and Hope Asian Perspective Association. We toured a new Amazon Go store and The Spheres, Amazon’s innovative downtown hub that brings a direct link to nature to Amazon employees. With her office right down the street, Thao shared that she enjoys working and visiting this unique home to more than 40,000 plants from the cloud forest regions of over 30 countries.

Thao Le ’11 shows off The Spheres at Amazon in downtown Seattle.

Once I was back on campus the next week, it was time to share lessons learned from these alumni with colleagues and students. Their stories can serve both as inspiration for future generations of Hope College students and for other alumni to get involved.

If you are interested in sharing your own career expertise, hosting a student or hiring a Hope graduate, complete the form at hope.edu/impact and a member of our team will be in touch with next steps.

One Big Weekend Photos and a Chance to Share Your Feedback

On October 19-21 we had over 40 events throughout the combined Homecoming and Family Weekend with over a thousand alumni, families and friends celebrating their common connection through Hope College.

If you were one of the many on campus, we want to know more about your experience. Your input helps us make each year better than the last. Please take this short survey. We will pick three survey responses as winners of a $100 Hope College Bookstore gift certificate.

You are also always welcome to ask questions or share feedback with us by emailing alumni@hope.edu or parents@hope.edu.

We also hope that you enjoy some of the photo galleries posted since the event:

Leecox Omollo ’02 Creates Kikwetu Coffee with Lessons Learned at Hope

“Awaken your senses.” That is the goal of Leecox Omollo, a 2002 Hope College graduate and software engineer turned coffee entrepreneur.

When he arrived at Hope from his hometown of Nairobi in the fall of 1998, he didn’t like coffee but loved the excitement and “vibe on campus” among international students. That is, until winter. Classes became harder, the weather harsher and the stress of second semester began to overwhelm. He found solace in the Fried Center on campus.

As a sophomore, he drew energy, if not yet inspiration, from coffee. At first he concealed its “unwelcome taste” using sugar. He embraced it purely as a stimulant to propel him through a rigorous schedule of work and school.

He tells the story of how that all changed when he stopped at a new coffee shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He finished his first cup of what he called the most flavorful and aromatic coffee before hurrying back to the counter for a refill. “Where is this coffee from?”,  he asked the owner behind the counter. “It’s from Kenya,” came the reply. He was dumbfounded. Strangely, leaving Kenya had allowed him to fully appreciate Kenyan coffee.

He went on to graduate with a major in computer science from Hope College in 2002, a masters in computer science from Grand Valley State University and a MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he resides today.

Leecox and Martha during their visit to campus in February of 2018.

By the time he met his wife, Martha, in 2004, he could share with her his interest in coffee. They visited many coffee shops in many cities, met lots of interesting people and witnessed first-hand the power of coffee shops to connect people and elevate communities. The idea of starting a coffee business slowly began to form in each of their minds. Kikwetu Kenya Coffee Company was finally born in 2014.

Kikwetu is a Swahili word that  translates to “our home”. During a recent visit to campus for a presentation at a Global Coffee Hour hosted by the Fried Center for Global Engagement, Leecox shared how the values of Kikwetu were informed from the home and foundation he found at Hope:

Invigorating
He shared that the experience he had at Hope, while not without challenges, was full of passion and energy. It was invigorating in mind, body and spirit. At Kikwetu, he hopes to build on the values of quality, invitation and the experience of being fully alive as a human.

Global
He believes that differences between cultures and people should not be viewed as threatening, but should rather be highlighted and celebrated. The importance of global connections and a broad worldview are values he says he learned at Hope and wants to continue in his work.

Kikwetu hosts Kenyan runners at the Chicago Marathon in 2016.

Connecting
He also shared that he wants to build a company around the understanding that real connections between human beings matter. He believes that coffee and tea, when properly unleashed, have a unique power to connect individuals and communities around the world. He draws inspiration around the connections he made with his host family at Hope and the relationships he has developed with local farmers in Kenya.

To learn more about Kikwetu and their single origin coffee from central Kenya, follow them on Facebook or check out their website.

A Tradition of Travel Gets a Boost

Alumni tour the streets of Vienna during a travel program in 1965.

Hope College began hosting educational tours for alumni and friends in the 1960s. The integration of learning with Hope faculty and the opportunity to connect with friends from the Hope community have always set these programs apart.

Over the past few years we have had increasing momentum for lifelong learning and travel. After two recent sell-out trips and wait lists almost as large as the trips themselves, we have decided to officially expand our offerings and launch a new Hope College Global Travel Program.

In addition to responding to the interests of alumni and friends, there are other strategic reasons to grow this program. Hope’s strategic plan calls for programs to expand faculty and staff cross-cultural perspectives, increase access to off-campus study for students and build a stronger network of lifelong relationships among alumni and friends of the college.

If you are a Hope graduate, parent, Hope Academy of Senior Professionals (HASP) member or friend of the college and have a desire to travel, learn, expand your worldview and connect with the Hope community — then this Global Travel Program is for you!

Every single traveler on our last program said that they would travel with Hope College again and that they would recommend the program to a friend.

UPCOMING TRIPS

Happy Travelers
Happy travelers at the end of their recent adventure in Tanzania.

We custom-design our programs relying on the expertise of our faculty, alumni hosts and staff.  Just like Hope College students studying abroad, you will gain new insights about the places to which you travel and return home with greater knowledge and understanding of our world.

We are moving from a program every few years to 2-3 programs each year. Destinations in the next year include: a Tanzania Safari (back by popular demand), a Discovering the Balkans River Cruise (in partnership with HASP but open to all) and a New Zealand Adventure.

MEET THE TEAM

Pat Van Wylen, pictured with her husband Dave, on an international adventure.

Pat Van Wylen recently joined the Alumni and Family Engagement team as the global travel coordinator. Previously, Pat worked in St. Olaf’s College’s International and Off-Campus Studies Office, organizing and co-leading a variety of international study abroad programs for St. Olaf College students and alumni. More recently she co-led alumni and family travel programs. In addition to having a passion for learning through travel, she also promotes health and wellness and has taught Health Dynamics at Hope.

100% of travelers on our last program said that the experience met or exceeded their expectations.

GLOBAL SCHOLARS FUND

A group of Hope students hike on the Iberian Peninsula during a recent off-campus study program.

Participants in this program will also be supporting today’s Hope students as they step beyond borders and connect with the global community. Proceeds from the Global Travel Program, as well as gifts from individual donors, support the Global Scholars Fund for student off-campus study grants.

SIGN UP AND SHARE YOUR IDEAS

If one of these trips doesn’t fit your travel goals or schedule, you can sign up to receive updates on future programs and share ideas for new times of the year and new destinations. You can also share photos from past trips if you have already traveled with Hope. Email your photos and suggestions to vanwylenp@hope.edu. We will use the feedback to plan for the future and we will share photos on our new online gallery.

At Hope College, we understand that the world is much bigger than the few blocks our campus sits on. Join us and become a student of the world.

What Comes Next? A Snapshot of Life After Hope

On Sunday, May 6, nearly 700 members of the Hope College Class of 2018 will walk across the stage at Commencement and begin the “lives of leadership and service” the mission of their alma mater beckons them to. But what exactly does this look like? Where do all these graduates go? What do they do?

Anecdotally, we know that Hope College alumni live out their callings in ways as unique as they are. From writing about race to eradicating polio. From winemaking in NYC to brewing in Michigan. From performing at the Oscars to Inventing America. From baseball strike zones to Superbowl flags thrown. From Peace Corps placements to global health equity. From cyber spying to wildlife photographing. While these individual stories are powerful examples of Hope graduates making a difference in the world, a quantitative analysis of life after Hope tells a powerful story as well.

Members of the Class of 2017, encouraged by faculty, prepare to walk in Commencement.

Take the Class of 2017 for example. Within six months of graduating from Hope:

  • 94% were in the workforce or graduate school.
  • 86% of those employed full-time were employed in their field of study.
  • 80% said they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams.
  • 96% participated in experiential learning opportunities, including internships, off-campus study and research.
  • Of those in graduate school, 85% were in their first choice.

Read a full report of the 2017 Graduate Survey.

Members of the Class of 2007 are led by faculty through campus on graduation day.

While it is important to get a great start right after college, we know that the true value of a Hope education is how it influences lives over a longer period of time. In this spirit, we also study graduate outcomes for alumni a decade after Commencement. Our ten-year graduate survey, most recently conducted with the Class of 2007, shows that:

  • Ten years after graduating, alumni report that the top three factors that have helped them secure employment are academic major, the value of a Hope degree and work experience. Only 1.2% are not employed and looking for a job.
  • 94% said their professors cared about them as a person and 64% said they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams.
  • 94% report being satisfied or very satisfied with their social well being, 93% with what they feel their purpose is in life, 89% with their job and 87% with their health.
  • The average salary of $69,500 is in the top 20% for annual income of 32 year olds in the United States.
  • 45% have completed a graduate degree. 86% of those that went to graduate school attended their first choice school.

We look forward to celebrating at Commencement this weekend and can’t wait to see how each member of the Class of 2018 turns their own Hope College education into a unique and meaningful life after college. Now and in the future,  they are agents of hope who live faithfully into their vocations. They make a difference in the world.