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!

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.

The Alumni Postcard Project

Here in the Office of Alumni & Family Engagement, we spend a few minutes every Tuesday morning watching a TED Talk or two. We’ve learned how to overcome fears from a man who climbed a 3,000 foot cliff with no ropes, how to find joy in everyday life, and how hilarious replying to a spam email can be. These short videos have given us a lot to talk about and have also inspired us to get creative in our work. A talk about sending letters to strangers led to a discussion on other ways mail can be used to connect and inspire. Lots of crazy ideas and a few bunny trails later, someone suggested asking our 33,000+ alumni to send postcards to our students to show them where a Hope education can take them.

 

Our new Boerigter Center for Calling and Career asks students “Where will you go?” So we want to know . . . “Where did you go?”

Are you an accountant in Austin? A biologist in Boise? A choreographer in Cleveland? Regardless of where your Hope education has taken you, we want to share your journey with the Hope students who will follow you into the world. The Office of Alumni and Family Engagement and Boerigter Center for Calling and Career are teaming up to launch The Postcard Project. The mission of the project is to inspire current Hope students by showing real-life examples of the paths they could take upon graduation (or even before!)

We are asking our network of more than 33,000 alumni to grab a postcard from where they live or work (hotel gift shops, gas stations or convenience stores like Walgreen’s often carry inexpensive postcards). Then simply write your name, graduation year, major and answer to the question “Where did your Hope education take you?” on the back of the card. You can be straight forward by answering the question with your job title and company, or get creative with a short tale.

Mail your postcard to:

Hope College
Boerigter Center
141 East 12th Street
Holland, MI 49423

We will display the postcards in an installation in the Boerigter Center lobby space in DeWitt Center, allowing students to peruse the cards as they are added in a space that has been designed for them to contemplate their future plans.

You need not have won a big award, made a big discovery or rake in the big bucks to be a big help with this project. We are looking for submissions from every corner of the world and every type of profession. We want students to have a realistic representation of the options that await them – maybe they’ll even be inspired to explore professions they’ve never heard of before.

Want to get even more involved in helping students discern their calling? Sign up to be a DiscoverWork host! This program, operated by the Boerigter Center, provides students with short-term opportunities to meet with or shadow professionals in their field of interest.

Check hope.edu/alumni/events for upcoming events both regionally and near campus.

The Invitation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the school year of 1962-63, Roland Marshall ’63 and Pete Paulsen ’64, with the permission of the administration and the support of student government, invited Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to campus. Pete contacted the Office of Alumni Engagement recently to share his story:

Hope College campus, 1965

Pete Paulsen ’64 recalls that the early 1960s were years of discussion, action, turmoil, and change. Although Hope College clearly never was a Berkeley, Paulsen admits, all over campus Hope students engaged in passionate discussions about what could and should happen to address the United States’ problem with racism, its movement toward war in Vietnam, and tensions with the Soviet Union.

He confesses that his memory might not be as good today as it was when he was a student. However, it appears that his friends are able to recall even less about the courageous step they took when inviting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the campus of Hope College. “Much of this history must of necessity then be conjecture,” Paulsen therefore concludes. One of his friends involved was Roland Marshall ’63, a former classmate of James Sanford. Together, the two students attended Dr. King’s speech at Ohio University during the International Student Conference of Race. Paulsen recalls his friends’ excitement about the dynamic and direct nature of Dr. King’s presentation upon their return to Hope, and the powerful impact this had on him.

Paulsen believes that this enthusiasm matched the energy Dr. King generated through his effort to address the issues with American racism. Although Paulsen is unsure about specific details, he recalls having planned an invitation of Dr. King to the campus of Hope College together with several friends. Many students placed an importance on hearing what Dr. King, a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement, had to say, and demonstrating their support of his work.

Baccalaureate 1965

Paulsen is confident that an invitation of Dr. King could not have been realized had it not been for student support and the permission of the college’s administration. Unfortunately, Dr. King was unable to visit the campus. Paulsen does not possess a copy of the initial invitation letter and of Dr. King’s response to this. He vaguely remembers having sent Dr. King another letter asking him to choose a date, and in the summer of 1963, Paulsen received a second letter from Dr. King. This indicated that the first letter had offered a specific date on which Dr. King was unavailable. Paulsen recently gave this letter to Hope’s archives. The letter reveals that due to commitments to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King was unable to visit Hope College.

MLK Jr. Letter to Hope College student Peter Paulsen, August 1963

According to Paulsen, Hope College has been committed to traditions and historic practice while simultaneously pushing for knowledge and morally right behavior and values. “It was courageous of the college to extend this invitation and invite a challenging voice to speak on campus and to community,” he says. “We need to continue that balance.”

“It was courageous of the college to extend this invitation and invite a challenging voice to speak on campus and to community.”

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your story and this letter. As we look forward to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 19, you are welcome to attend a lecture by Dr. Joy DeGruy on campus at 2:00 pm. For more information, please visit hope.edu/calendar.

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.

Announcing the 2018 10 Under 10 Award Recipients

“This is my anchor of hope for this people in the future.”

Much has changed since A.C. Van Raalte used those words to describe Hope College over 150 years ago. Hope no longer houses all its students and classrooms within the walls of Van Vleck Hall, but the goal of preparing students to be a positive impact on the world of tomorrow most certainly remains.

In the fall of 1862, Hope College enrolled its first freshman class of 10 men. In October 2018, we will celebrate our first recipients (men and women) of the 10 under 10 Awards. The awards are designed to honor emerging leaders who are engaged in the local and global community and who exemplify the attributes of a Hope graduate. Full criteria can be found here. Nominations flowed in and a team of Alumni Board members, faculty and staff were presented with the task of selecting the final 10 recipients. The Alumni Board of Directors enthusiastically confirmed the selections and are pleased to sponsor this award.

These 10 recipients have backgrounds and interests as varied as the programs offered at Hope. They are taking their liberal arts education to new heights and impacting the world in big ways.

We are pleased to announce the following Hope College 10 Under 10 Award Recipients for 2018:

Sarah Watkins ’08 Fabian
Assistant Professor of Theatre

She creates new worlds on the stage and instructs others on how to do the same.

 

Xander Krieg ’12
Founder and CTO of AI software company

He developed an algorithm that allows a greater understanding of facial expressions and emotions.

 

Jonas Lawson ’13
Political Advertising Account Executive

He oversees high profile campaigns advertising at the local, state and federal levels.

 

Maggie Mohr ’09
Postdoctoral Fellow in Neurobiology

She has made significant contributions in neuroscience through her research.

 

Quinn Nystrom ’08
Speaker, Author & Diabetes Awareness Advocate

She brings a voice of hope and knowledge to people living with Diabetes.

 

Izzy Rhodes ’11
Hospital Crisis Chaplain
She promotes enhanced attention to mental health in the church and supports families experiencing medical trauma.

 

Travis Rieth ’10
Photographer, Writer & Consultant

He travels North America as a photographer, writer, consultant, adventurer and advocate.

 

Chaz Shelton ’09
Founder & CEO of Hydroponic Food Company

He helps to make fresh food accessible and affordable using science and technology.

 

Carl Scholten ’11
School Principal

He leads school staff and encourages academic and spiritual growth in students.

 

Katherine Stritzke ’08 Simons
Strategy and Marketing Professional

She creates strategies for large-scale business transformations.

Alumni, students, families and friends are invited to celebrate at the 10 Under 10 Soiree during One Big Weekend on Friday, October 19 from 7 – 9 pm at City Flats Hotel as part of Hope on 8th Street. You’ll celebrate with these recipients in a casual meet-and-greet setting with appetizers and a cash bar. No registration is required and you may come and go as you please. You won’t want to miss it!

Do you know someone who belongs on this list for 2019? We are accepting nominations! Simply fill out this short form and your nominee will be added to the list and considered for next year’s awards.

Book on Forgotten African American History Puts Author Anna-Lisa Cox ’94 in the Spotlight

 

Anna-Lisa Cox ’94

As a scholar of 19th-century U.S. history, Anna-Lisa Cox ’94 isn’t accustomed to being in the spotlight. With the forthcoming publication of her book The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality, however, she’s found herself the subject of numerous media interviews, recipient of multiple invitations to discuss her work and soon to begin a month-long book tour starting on the East Coast with a June 11 preview in Holland. Amazon named The Bone and Sinew of the Land a June Best Book of the Month in history, and well-known scholar Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University has described it as “a revelation of primary historical research that is written with the beauty and empathic powers of a novel.”

It’s all an adjustment, but she’s glad for the interest in her topic and the opportunity it presents to share a rich history long lost.

“I am a little stunned by the advance interest in my book,” said Anna-Lisa, who is a nonresident fellow with Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, “but I am relieved that the response has been warm.”

Focusing on the Northwest Territory (modern Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) between 1800 and 1860, Anna-Lisa found that African Americans played a larger role in settling the frontier than previously believed. She identified more than 300 African American farming settlements that were home to land-owning farming families in the region, before the Civil War. There were tens of thousands of these free African American pioneers who came to settle this early American frontier in what was the nation’s first Great Migration.

“Loren Schweninger points out in Black Property Owners in the South, by the mid-1800s a farmer with property worth between $2,000 and $5,000 was in the top 13 percent of wealthy landowners in the United States at that time, regardless of skin color,” she said. “Many of these settlements included farmers with such wealth, and some were even wealthier.”

“It is amazing how these histories have been lost, but there is a lot of richness in the past for us still to learn,” she said. “From a local history perspective, Ottawa County had some very early African American settlers before the Civil War, including a successful blacksmith.”

Anna-Lisa, who is currently based in Michigan, has been conducting research on race relations in the 19th-century Midwest for several years. Her award-winning publications also include the 2007 book A Stronger Kinship: One Town’s Extraordinary Story of Hope and Faith (Little, Brown), which tells the history of the southwest Michigan community of Covert, which became integrated in the 1860s. She has also recently helped create two historical exhibits based on her original research at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, including one on black pioneers. She was back at Hope this past spring semester as a visiting faculty member, teaching a course on Michigan history.

She explains that the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided the impetus for thousands of African Americans to relocate to the wilderness lands in what she describes as the nation’s first Great Migration. It forbade slavery in the region, and offered equal voting rights to men regardless of their skin color. With the territory largely unsettled, it also meant that the African American pioneers could build new lives away from racial prejudice.

As the decades passed, Anna-Lisa noted, the opportunities for African Americans declined as the region became more heavily settled and they found themselves facing familiar biases as the frontier receded. As the publisher’s description of the book explains, “Though forgotten today, in their own time the success of these pioneers made them the targets of racist backlash. Political and even armed battles soon ensued, tearing apart families and communities.”

With the U.S. of the present day continuing to wrestle with <<equality>>, she feels that remembering is essential.

“The Northwest Frontier was the largest piece of land set aside as free from slavery in the New World,” she said. “This was a truly revolutionary frontier. What’s been lost is not only this first Great Migration, but all the settlements that were part of it.”

“These African American pioneers who came out to settle the frontier long before the Civil War are an integral part of our American past, but their history has been buried for far too long,” she said. “If we lose who helped settle the frontier, who was essential in these states’ histories, we lose a sense of who belongs.”

The book-tour events will provide multiple opportunities to learn more or to connect with Anna-Lisa. They include:

Monday, June 11: Maple Avenue Ministries, Holland, Michigan, 427 Maple Ave., 7 p.m.

Tuesday, June 19: Harvard Book Store, co-sponsored by the Hutchins Center; Boston, Massachusetts

Thursday, June 21: Politics & Prose; Washington, D.C.

Friday, June 22: Solid State Books; Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, June 26: Seminary Co-op; Chicago, Illinois

Wednesday, June 27: Anderson’s Bookshop; Naperville, Illinois

Sunday July 8, 2 p.m.: Allen County Public Library; Fort Wayne, Indiana

Monday, July 9: Literati Bookstore; Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tuesday, July 10: Pages Bookstore; Detroit, Michigan

Tuesday, July 24: Wisconsin Historical Society; Madison, Wisconsin

In addition, more about the book is available online at https://www.publicaffairsbooks.com/titles/anna-lisa-cox/the-bone-and-sinew-of-the-land/9781610398114/ or https://www.amazon.com/Bone-Sinew-Land-Americas-Forgotten/dp/1610398106 .

 

Ten Under Ten Awards

Visionaries. Risk Takers. Creators. Dreamers.

Our recent alumni are changing the world and we are dedicated to celebrating these rising stars and emerging leaders. Help us find them by nominating a Hope graduate within the past ten years for the inaugural Hope College 10 Under 10 Awards. This program will honor young alumni who exemplify what it means to be anchored in Hope. They will be presented at a special event open to all during Homecoming & Family Weekend on October 19, 2018.

Use the following criteria to nominate a 2008-2017 Hope graduate deserving of this recognition. Nominations made through April 13 will be considered for 2018. The nomination form will remain open to collect submissions for subsequent annual awards. All nominations are anonymous and we will send you a Hope College t-shirt if your nominee is selected (and the form is super short)!

10 Under 10 Award Criteria

  • Emerging leader making significant contributions by living out their calling
  • Engaged in the local or global community through professional and/or volunteer involvement
  • Serves as an outstanding young role model for current and future students and alumni by showcasing the attributes of a graduate anchored in Hope:
    • Using their education to think about important issues with wisdom & clarity
    • Communicating effectively to bridge boundaries that divide human communities
    • Acting as an agent of hope who lives faithfully into their vocation
    • Making a difference
  • A member of the Hope College Alumni Association within 10 years of graduation
    • Note: All Hope graduates and those who have earned 45 credits or more are automatically members of the Alumni Association

Make a nomination today!

Questions? Email awards@hope.edu.

Recent Grad Researches Grit and Presents at International Congress

Positive psychology is the scientific study of what enables individuals and communities to thrive. At a recent international conference, one of our Hope College alumni community members contributed to this field of study with some academic thriving of his own.

Robby Henry ’17 recently presented original research he completed at Hope as part of the 5th World Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association. The conference, held this year in Montreal, Canada, is comprised of the leading researchers and practitioners in positive psychology. They meet annually to share research and best practices. This year, over 1,300 delegates from more than 60 countries attended. Among those presenting the latest research, Robby shared “Reflecting on Grit: The Physiological Markers of Self-consciousness and a Gritty Personality.”

During the event he broadcasted his eagerness to participate, tweeting his excitement to Hope College and the Hope Psychology Club. Robby also gave a shout-out to Hope College alumni who are contributing to the field.

Originally from LaSalle, Illinois, Robby graduated from Hope College with the class of 2017, receiving his BA in Biology and Psychology and minoring in Neuroscience. During his time at Hope he was a Resident Assistant and a volunteer at the Holland Free Health Clinic. Currently, he is a PhD student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Utah focusing  on developmental psychopathology, lifespan transitions, and psychophysiology.

Hope Experts Guide Alumni and Friends Through Tanzania

Photo of Tim Laman '83
Tim Laman ’83 takes a photo alongside guests on the recent travel program trip to Tanzania.

By Lynne Powe ’86

The jubilant “whoop” on the plains of the Serengeti isn’t the call of the African black-bellied bustard. It’s award-winning wildlife photojournalist and field biologist Dr. Tim Laman ’83 celebrating the composition of a special photo. As he reviews the images on the back of his camera, he beams with satisfaction, and a brief nod confirms he’s enjoying his time photographing the national parks of northern Tanzania.

Photo of Eldon Greij
Professor emeritus Eldon Greij leads a safari vehicle of interested birders.

In a nearby Toyota Land Cruiser, Dr. Eldon Greij, professor emeritus of biology and founder of the magazine Birder’s World, focuses his binoculars on a pair of raptors, while calling out identifying characteristics. The local driver/guide joins in. When necessary, they consult, “The Birds of East Africa,” a field guide laying on the dashboard. The energy and enthusiasm is palpable as they confirm another species to add to the checklist that evening.

Photo of Eldon Greij and Tim Laman
The former faculty and student research team takes a break in Arusha National Park as colleagues and trip co-leaders.

An African safari has been my dream trip since I was a Hope sophomore and hoping to photograph wildlife found in that part of the world. When I heard that Eldon Greij and Tim Laman were co-leading a tour with the Hope College Alumni Association, I was the first to pay my deposit. Based on their expertise, I was confident it would be an exceptional experience.

Eldon taught in the Hope College Biology Department for 26 years, specializing in ornithology and ecology.  He founded Birder’s World in 1988 and edited the magazine for 11 years. During that time he led birding tours to the Amazon and Africa for readers of the magazine.  He also led Hope student May terms to Peru and Tanzania.

Tim has excelled as an international wildlife photographer and videographer. A contributing photographer for National Geographic, he was named Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2016 by the world-renowned British institution, the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine. More than 50,000 entries from 95 countries were submitted for this prestigious competition. He has recently been a videographer for nature documentaries produced by the BBC.

For this Hope College tour, Eldon worked with his connections at Roy Safaris in Arusha to develop an itinerary that included a balance of national park game drives and cultural experiences. Highlights included Arusha National Park, making coffee at Tengeru Village, Tarangire National Park, an afternoon learning about an Iraqw tribe, Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park, NDUTU, time with children at the Nainokanoka Primary School, Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Crater, and a visit to a Maasai Village.

Twenty-eight alumni and friends from across the United States signed up for this adventure. Our ages ranged from 23 to 83. The reasons they shared for taking this journey were as varied as our ages. Some wanted to interact with people from other cultures. Some were drawn by the allure of so many animals.  Many were eager to add new species of birds to their life list. Some came for the opportunity to improve their photography skills under the mentorship of a National Geographic photographer. Some sought the thrill of the adventure of traveling to another part of the world. We all had a common desire to see and learn as much as we could during this unique opportunity.

Travel Program Group
The full group and guides celebrate a successful safari at the African Tulip in Arusha.
Safari Guides
Our guides, Thomas, Nico, Emmanuel and Salvatory, take a break for a photo before lunch on the edge of the Serengeti.

We had four amazing local safari guides who led the way and answered our constant questions. As we traveled the bumpy roads, they proudly taught us about their beautiful country and shared their stories. Thomas, Nico, Emmanuel, and Salvatory, knew the national parks well and easily spotted a wide variety of mammals and birds. They loved their jobs and it showed.

It was just as refreshing to see Eldon and Tim enjoying their vocation with so much enthusiasm. They freely shared their knowledge. Tim helped us develop our photography skills during the day and shared his photos at night as another way for us to learn. I was eager to absorb Tim’s photography tips, but I was equally impressed by his natural history knowledge of Africa.

With stunning landscapes and assorted wildlife around almost every corner, photo opportunities were plentiful. The click of camera shutters in our vehicles seemed to be never-ending, and we were all a little giddy when reviewing our photos. I know my photography improved with each day’s shoot.

Agama Lizard
This agama lizard earned the nickname of the Hope College lizard for his orange and blue spirit.

We saw a plethora of animals — many I had never heard of before, including the black-faced vervet, large spotted genet, rock hyrax, klipspringer, eland, Coke’s hartebeest and topi. Within a 24-hour period, we were elated to see Africa’s big five: elephant, black rhinoceros, cape buffalo, lion and leopard. We even glimpsed the orange-and-blue agama lizard which we ceremoniously dubbed the Hope College lizard. The bird list also seemed to be endless, and I think most of us became enamored with the lilac-breasted roller and the Fischer’s lovebird.

Birds
Ficher’s lovebirds and a lilac-breasted roller.

More than a month after returning home from our travels, I’m just as excited about this safari now as I was during the trip. I am thrilled that I became a better photographer during the trip, especially because these images will help me remember such a wonderful experience in vivid detail. Thanks to Eldon, Tim, and our guides, each day on the trip was educational and inspirational.

Happy Travelers
Happy travelers at the end of their adventure.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to have traveled with other Hope alumni and friends, and I’m grateful for the leadership we had. The Alumni Office staff did an amazing job of coordinating all the details before, during, and after the tour. We could fully enjoy the trip because we didn’t have to worry about all of the logistics. A special thanks to Kasey Petro and Scott Travis for making it all run so smoothly.

As we set off in early May I know there were a lot of expectations to fulfill for this group. Personally, my expectations were exceeded on the first day and every day!

  • Check out video highlights and photos taken by various members of the group in the galleries posted below.
  • You can also learn more about Tim Laman ’83 and see a collection of his work from this trip at magazine.hope.edu.
  • If you are interested in joining the mailing list for the travel program, please email alumni@hope.edu.

Guest Photo Highlights

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Video Highlights