With Another Vaccine, Dr. Ben Kopek Discusses More Hope

This week, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine rolled out in a number of locations across the U.S., giving Americans three vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. With such good, hopeful news, Keeping Hope writer Eva Dean Folkert sat down (via Google Meet) with Hope College’s resident virology expert, Dr. Ben Kopek, associate professor of biology. Kopek offers his wisdom and knowledge on the three vaccines’ safety and effectiveness, on herd immunity in the U.S, on global vaccines, and on hope for the future. 

First though,

A Summary of Vaccine Similarities and Differences

Pfizer-BioNTechModernaJohnson & Johnson
Efficacy95%95%72 % against moderate illness. 85% effective against severe disease
DosageTwo doses given 21 days apartTwo doses given 28 days apartOne dose
Storage/TimingAt between -80ºC to -60ºC. (The FDA has now eased up on that requirement a bit.) Refrigerator storage for five days and must be used within six hours of being thawed and diluted.At about -20ºC, or about the temperature of a home freezerSimple refrigeration
Additives (ie, antibiotics, preservatives)NoneNoneNone
Dr. Ben Kopek, virologist and associate professor of biology

Eva Dean Folkert: Now that there are vaccine choices in the U.S., should Americans have a preference, or should they take whatever is available, whenever it is available to them? 

Ben Kopek: The three vaccines that received authorization in the US have all been shown to be safe and effective. You should absolutely take whatever is available when you have that opportunity. There are differences in the efficacy, yes, but there are several things to look at there, some nuances to be aware of. With Johnson & Johnson, they were looking at moderate to severe disease. And as far as preventing severe disease, it is 85% effective. So that’s in line with Moderna and Pfizer. More importantly, no one in that Johnson & Johnson trial died. So, you could say it’s 100% effective in preventing death. People may say, “Well, I want the one that’s 95 percent, not the one that’s 72 percent effective.” But all three are safe and very effective in what they are intended to do. 

EDF: So rolling out three vaccines in a year’s time, that’s a big deal, right?

BK: It’s very impressive to me, and it’s something I never thought would happen. I don’t think a lot of scientists thought it was possible either. It really, though, built on decades of advances in vaccine research that we’ve been able to take advantage of very quickly. So, it wasn’t completely out of the blue. These (methods) were in place just through basic research over the years. What really drove it, I think, was some expediency and also a large amount of money. 

Also, unfortunately, because the COVID-19 outbreak was so big, it was pretty easy to test the vaccine. So, to have these trials, you need to be able to inoculate enough people and then have enough people actually get disease to be able to see whether the vaccine is effective or not. And because we have such a big outbreak worldwide, that was able to happen very rapidly. 

In contrast to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, by the time they had some vaccines developed, also very rapidly, the outbreak was over. So, they couldn’t really test those. They had to wait and wait several years for another round. So, each vaccine is going to be a little bit dependent on the virus, the disease and how prevalent it is. But certainly, this is just a fantastic achievement. 

EDF: Now the U.S. has three vaccines. Thoughts or opinions when the pandemic might weaken even more in this country, or is it too early to tell? 

BK: It’s hard to make predictions, but I think we’re already seeing the effects of these vaccines. Looking in the news and what the predictions are already, they’re saying 70 to 80 percent of people need to get the vaccine to get to herd immunity. The latest estimate I’ve seen is September. But there’s been 20-25 million people who have been infected with the virus in the US, and that’s probably an underestimate. They did some surveys last fall looking at how many people actually had antibodies who did not test positive, and they think the number of people who were actually infected was probably about three or four times that (20-25 million infection rate). 

So, we’re looking at maybe 60 to 80 million people who are already infected, who presumably have some level of immunity. And then, we’re getting another 20 to 40 million vaccinated pretty soon here. We’re getting close to 30 to 40 percent of the US population with immunity. So, I think we’re already seeing some of the effects of the vaccine and prior infections. Historically, that 30 to 40 percent of people who have an immunity is a place where you would start to see some reduction in disease like when the polio vaccine rolled out in the 1950s. I think we’re already seeing that. I mean, it’s still a way to go, but I’m hopeful. 

EDF: Will this be a vaccine that we’ll need on an annual basis like the influenza vaccine? Or will it be one and done? 

BH: It’s really hard to predict (vaccine) durability right now. For some vaccines, like the measles vaccine, it essentially has lifetime durability whereas you have to get an influenza or flu shot every year.  A lot of that is related to the virus itself and how quickly it changes. The influenza virus mutates and reassorts, and it can change quite a bit year to year. 

But if I had to guess, based on basic virology, I would guess that this would be more durable than the influenza vaccines, but probably less durable than something like the measles vaccine or the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.

EDF: We hear about vaccines that have been developed in China and in Russia. The United Kingdom has the AstraZeneca vaccine. Why aren’t those more widely distributed?

BK: For the US, there has to be certain criteria met from trials. Maybe a good example of that is the AstraZeneca vaccine approved in the U.K., but not in the US. The FDA doesn’t merely accept results from other countries. So, it’s a regulatory decision (not to use those other countries’ vaccines). I also don’t know if the US has access to all the clinical trial information from those other countries and whether that clinical trial data, if they had it, would be sufficient for the FDA to grant approval for those. 

China has developed three different vaccines. One vaccine approved in China is being used in the United Arab Emirates, also Bahrain and Egypt. Another Chinese vaccine is used in Brazil. 

Interestingly, the Russian one uses the same platform as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s essentially the same vaccine there. I would expect the Russian vaccine — called Sputnik V — would be effectively the same thing as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

EDF: Will there be any other vaccines coming available in the U.S. in the near future?

BK: Yes. The AstraZeneca is in the final stage of clinical trials in the U.S., and I would expect that that would be available in the US as well later this year. There is also one called Novavax, which is also undergoing U.S. clinical trials. So maybe we’ll have up to five vaccines by the end of the year. 

EDF: Thanks, Dr. Kopek. Any final thoughts for our readers? 

BK: I could talk a lot about vaccines, but I guess the take-home is that these vaccines have all been shown to be safe and effective. We shouldn’t worry about taking them. Take whichever one of these that you are offered. And take them with confidence and gratitude.

14 Ways to 14 Weeks of Wellness

Hey Hope College! We’ve got 14 full weeks on campus ahead of us! Let’s make this a healthy semester — all semester! — so we can remain together, in person, through November. 

We are off to a great start, but we must not let our guard down.

Our mitigation strategy, when implemented and practiced in its entirety, gives us the best chance for remaining in person this semester.

Here are some important reminders about that strategy:

  1. Wear face coverings. Wear a face covering that covers your nose and mouth at all times while on campus — both inside and out — unless you are in your private living space OR the sole occupant of an enclosed office OR outdoors and continually more than six feet from every other person. 
    What about outside? Yes, wear a face covering! Unless you are seated and stationary so as to ensure that a 6-foot distance can be continually maintained at all times, wear a face covering — and even then, remember that face coverings must be worn during outdoor classes. You can also remove your face covering if you are walking alone.
  2. Maintain six-foot distance…wherever you go. Physically distance at least six feet from others — both indoors and outdoors. This includes hallways, stairwells, lines, etc. 
  3. Wash your hands. Practice good hand hygiene by washing hands thoroughly (at least 20 seconds) and frequently. If you are not able to use soap and water, use hand sanitizer. 
  4. Clean your space. Keep personal and shared workspaces clean and sanitized. Disinfect workspaces before and after use. Wipe down desks and tables, especially when leaving classrooms or shared spaces.
  5. Complete the daily screening form. Complete the Daily Self-Screening Form every day, before or when you arrive on campus. The forms for students and employees can be accessed at hope.edu/healthscreen
  6. Participate in testing. The college will be conducting daily surveillance testing for students. Please encourage students to read their emails and take part in the surveillance tests when asked. Their cooperation is critical to our mitigation strategy! We will keep you updated on the availability of testing for employees who have COVID-19 symptoms. 
  7. Contact your healthcare provider and HR if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Continue to monitor yourself for COVID-19 symptoms throughout the day — and if you experience symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately for direction. If you are experiencing symptoms, please stay home (or go home) and contact Human Resources to notify them.  
  8. Know about “exposure” and “close contact.” Review the COVID-19 Exposure website and What Happens When I’m a Close Contact website to understand how you can be exposed to the virus. The Campus Health email from last Friday also provides a good overview of these and other important issues. 
  9. Carry your Hope ID with you at all times. Most buildings on campus will be locked this semester. You’ll need to swipe your ID card to access these buildings.
  10. Don’t move the furniture. Keep furniture in classrooms and shared spaces in its place. The furniture is intentionally arranged to ensure a safe environment and proper distancing. This is especially important in dining areas!
  11. Limit travel. Only essential travel is permitted this semester. The Risk and Responsibility team has defined “essential” as travel that is required to assure, preserve and/or substantially enhance the mission of the college and the specific program or department, involving work that cannot accomplished by other means and/or postponed to a later date. Submit the Essential Travel Request Form after discussing your request with your supervisor first.
  12. Be mindful of where you eat and drink. Do not eat in the classroom. (Drinking in the classroom is permitted, and the use of straws is encouraged.) Remember that, currently, students only may eat in the dining halls. Please go to the Kletz Market or use Dining Services’ new mobile ordering app, coming soon.
  13. Put health and safety first when planning your event. Currently, Hope events are limited to a maximum of 10 attendees for indoor gatherings and events, and 50 attendees for outdoor. For event guidelines and requirements, please visit the Event Planning Resources website.
  14. Actively encourage safeguards and report concerns. We all play a role in helping to build a culture of accountability and responsibility! Ask and encourage any person on campus to follow the safeguards. If you have asked or encouraged and behavior persists, please use the COVID Concern Form to report concerns regarding health and behavior on campus.

One for All, All for One to Keep Hope Healthy

That old Three Musketeers credo — “One for All and All for One” — might have its best application in the 21st century. After all, practicing COVID-19 safeguards in 2020 means doing so for both personal and community good. D’Artagnan would surely agree!

At Hope, that motto has been essentially at the heart of all that the college is doing to reopen campus safely to over 3000 students and hundreds of employees in a few short days. For the campus community to remain together this semester, it is going to take each individual committed to doing their part for all. 

Of course, all of those efforts have real human stories and faces behind them.

So, what have some of our faculty and staff done to be Hope Ready headed into this school year? The Keeping Hope blog asked six Hope-ites some questions about what they have been doing and will do to keep Hope, and themselves, healthy in the days ahead.

They are: Henry Chen, Campus Safety officer; Dr. Marissa Doshi, associate professor of communication; Dr. John Jobson, associate dean of students; Dr. Benjamin Kopek, virologist and associate professor of biology; Jill Nelson, chaplain of small groups; and Dr. Leigh Sears, women’s soccer coach and associate professor of kinesiology.

When and where do you wear a mask?

Dr. Leigh Sears: Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in March as well as having surgery and recently finishing radiation, I wear a mask in every indoor public space I go into. 

Henry Chen: I wear a mask whenever indoors and outdoors when social distancing isn’t available. It is important for me because of my job as well as for the safety of my parents who are both in the high-risk category due to both age as well as health concerns.

Dr. Marissa Doshi: I wear a mask in any shared indoor or outdoor spaces, except inside my home.

Dr. Ben Kopek: Whenever I am out and about around other people. I do not wear a mask when I am outside and can keep some distance between myself and others.

Jill Nelson: I wear my mask whenever I plan to go inside any buildings or plan to be on Hope’s campus. I’m happy to proceed with compassion and humility for the sake of others and for safety.  I’ve started to collect masks that I think are cute.

Dr. John Jobson: I really try when in public indoor spaces. To me, it is a matter of respect for others. We (my wife and I) even keep a handkerchief and two rubber bands in each of our vehicles so that we can make a quick face covering if we forget to grab a regular face covering on our way out the door for the inevitable quick trip.

Besides your family, do you allow anyone else inside or around your home? If so, who and for what reason?

Sears: After being isolated from mid-March through May, we finally had a couple over for an outside dinner. We have done this a couple times as well as having hosted several alumnae from the soccer team for physically-distanced porch visits.

Chen: We have not allowed anyone besides my immediate family into our house yet. We will start “back-yard church” with a couple of select church families beginning in mid-August. We did have a backyard “Hamilton” viewing party on opening night in our backyard too! 

Doshi: No one has visited, although we did need a plumber once and had an appliance delivered.

Kopek: We have mostly kept around family, but we have had small groups of friends over a few times.

What is your protocol when you do grocery shopping? Are you an in-person shopper or an online-shopper using a Shipt or Instacart service? Do you wipe down your groceries or no?

Sears: I have never enjoyed grocery shopping and am lucky enough to have a husband who does the shopping. Especially since my diagnosis though, I don’t even stop in to pick things up at large stores and just try to stay out of indoor public spaces as much as possible. I do know my husband always has hand sanitizer in the car and wipes in his pocket. He does wipe down the cart at the store, but we do not clean our groceries when he brings them home.

Chen: Before the executive order requiring masks indoors, my sister was the sole grocery shopper for our household and my parent’s household. Now that there is an executive order for wearing masks indoors and with many people following those orders, my wife Julie and I have both also gone to the grocery stores.  We only wipe down groceries if we are going to use it immediately. Most groceries that can stay in the garage are left in the garage for a couple of days.

Kopek: In-person shopping. I have always thought grocery carts are about the most disgusting thing on the planet even before this. I am actually glad to see the increase in wiping down carts at stores. Why has this not been standard practice (before COVID-19)?

Jobson: My family (wife and two teenagers – one of whom will be a member of this year’s incoming class) has found a rhythm of in-person shopping every 2 weeks and supplementing that by using Crisp Country Acres Farm Store for fresh vegetables, fruits, milk and eggs. After doing the major shopping, we either store the items for a minimum of 72 hours prior to using the respective item or we wipe it down. The items that we get from Crisp, however, we tend to use immediately.

How about eating out? Do you take out or dine in? Or, do you make all of your own meals? 

Chen: We have been using take-out throughout the pandemic, we choose restaurants that have good procedures in place for safety. We have not dined in or dined in outdoor spaces yet.

Doshi: We like cooking so we cook at home. We’ve certainly done take-out but haven’t eaten in a restaurant (or on a restaurant patio) since March.

Nelson: We mostly make our own meals, but do enjoy takeout occasionally (The Southerner in Saugatuck and Spice Boys Tacos in Holland are amazing!) We have also had a few outdoor special date nights with our kids. We appreciate restaurants and all the hard work they are doing to remain safe.

Kopek: We generally don’t eat out much in general. However, my wedding anniversary fell just after dining restrictions were lifted and my wife and I had a lovely meal at Linear in GR. We then went out with the kids a few days later and had a terrible experience at another restaurant. I feel bad for the struggling restaurants, but the in-person dining experience is not worth the stress and hassle for me now.

Jobson: Take-out on occasion but for the most part, we prepare our own meals. My daughter has taken to baking during the “coronacation” and I enjoy cooking (there was a stretch where my meat smoker was getting pretty consistent use – now it’s switched more to the grill). Part of the dine-in experience is the enjoyment of the conversation and the company with whom you are sharing the meal. At this point, it doesn’t feel at all possible.

What do you do when you get a haircut?

Sears: I had two COVID haircuts thanks to my husband. He did not quit his day job! I was finally able to get a proper haircut and the salon had the waiting room moved outside. I had to use hand sanitizer before entering, and I had to wear a mask the entire time.

Chen: I have started to cut my own hair as well as my son’s hair. 

Doshi: Lol…what haircut? Honestly though, I’m not too bothered about my hair; I’ve had bangs since I was 16 and have had years to perfect the art of trimming them at home.  Kudos to my husband, though, for entrusting me with his haircuts. He owns many caps! 

Nelson: Ok, I’m pretty proud of this. During stay-at-home, I learned how to cut hair!  To be clear, we still love our actual stylists, but in a pinch, I now know that I can cut my boys’ and my husband’s hair with the help of my Amazon order of fancy shears, YouTube videos and FaceTime tutorials from a friend who is a stylist.  What an accomplishment! But happily, now that my salon is open, I’m relieved to be back in the hands of a professional. I wear a mask and since it is a small place in East Grand Rapids, I am the only one in there, and I love catching up with the man who has cut my hair for many, many years. At this time, he does not blow dry my hair. I leave with it wet.

Jobson: Have you seen my hair? I cut/shave my own!

What would you tell your students about attending events that could have big crowds, such as a rally or an off-campus party?

Sears: As harsh as this sounds – don’t’ do it. You feel invincible and therefore you choose to do what you want. In doing so, you may feel fine, but you have no idea if someone around you is compromised. That person could be in your dorm, your class, or even your professor. You may be an asymptomatic carrier who spreads this around your cottage, house, or team. So, for you to do what you want because wearing a mask or not being able to see 50 of your friends at the same time is inconvenient, we may lose what little athletic season — and on-campus academics —  that we are trying to have. More important than athletics and academics though, I am more susceptible to getting sick and really cannot afford to have that happen with more appointments and testing in my near future.

Kopek: Just don’t, please! If you want to be at Hope, we all need to do our best to mitigate virus spread. At the very least, think of your grandma every time you consider attending a large gathering.

What precautions do you take in your home? In your office?

Sears: Our major precaution in the home is to not let anyone in. My husband took three weeks off of work in March and April and is now back to work. He now changes his clothes at work and showers immediately when he comes home. So far, I have only been to the office when no one else has been in and it has been just to pick things up. I probably won’t spend large amounts of time there in the fall.

Chen: In our home, we are a pod and so we are able to not wear masks indoors. If friends come to visit, we stay outside and in good social distance. At work for Campus Safety, we have been at the forefront throughout the pandemic, we never left campus and I have been following all of the guidelines given by the steering committee. 

Jobson: At home, I have earned the nickname, “laundry thief” for my COVID-developed obsession with picking up any item of clothing and putting it in the washing machine (no matter how little it has been worn). Add to that my love of the scent of bleach and vacuum tracks, and you can begin to imagine what our house is like! I’ve only been back in the office since August 5. I’ll let you know after it’s been a little longer…

Besides Hope’s “spit” testing, have you been tested for the coronavirus? If so, describe the experience.

Chen: I have been tested twice for the coronavirus. Both tests were a nasal swab test and were at two different “drive-up” sites in Holland and Zeeland. The tests were quick but not comfortable because of the depth of the test swab inside your nasal cavity. At the time of my tests, the results were very fast, I was able to get my results by the next business day but I know that other tests and sites may take more time for results to be available. While awaiting my first test, I had to quarantine myself from my family as well as participate in the health department’s contact tracing program. My results were negative but I still participated in the contact tracing program for the 14 days since my original contact because the virus load may not present at a high level initially.

Nelson: I have been tested for COVID! I actually had unexpected emergency surgery (it ended up being just a minor, outpatient surgery) a few weeks ago and had to be tested. It honestly wasn’t the greatest experience, but I was so glad to know I was negative. I look forward to the nice and easy test that Hope is offering.

What are you optimistic about for the fall? What are you looking forward to?

Sears: I am looking forward to having students back as well as my student athletes.  I am optimistic that Hope will provide a safe academic environment for their students.  Even though it will look and feel different, many people have been working hard all summer to prepare to have students back. 

Chen: I am thankful for the leadership of Hope College and the care and thoughtfulness that has led to Hope College’s decisions. I am so excited for the campus to have each student back on campus. I am optimistic that Hope College and our students can be an example to our community as well as to the nation that we are a beacon of Hope shining and leading the way as we face these challenges.  I am so optimistic that Hope is the place to not only take on those challenges but to triumph over those challenges. I am thankful for the Physical Plant staff who have worked tirelessly to prepare the campus to welcome the campus community back to campus in a safe environment. Have I said that I am looking forward to having the student community back on campus?  That is what I look forward to the most!

Doshi: I’m looking forward to meeting my students this fall. I’m always excited about learning together! I’m teaching my courses virtually but as someone who researches digital culture and has had to maintain family and friendship ties using technology for over a decade, I am not easily convinced that online interactions are inherently less authentic. I am approaching this fall as an opportunity to interact with my students via a new modality and hone online pedagogy. And of course, I’m looking forward to learning and experiencing this new form of campus community. 

Nelson: I can’t wait to be back on campus with the amazing students, faculty and staff at Hope. They are brilliant, resilient, courageous, curious, creative, passionate, fun and full of HOPE. I look forward to continuing to lean into the beauty and gift of Scripture with students via Small Group Bible Studies. I’m eager to study the book of Acts with students and learn more about who God is and how He is working in our everyday lives.  I love how I get to walk with students and encourage them. Things will be different at first…but I really believe that God has big plans for Hope for our students this fall! 

Kopek: There is always such a fun energy when students return to campus. Even with the uncertainty surrounding the Fall semester I am sure there will be a lot of good energy. We are living through a momentous occasion in the history of the world that will be remembered for generations. I believe the resiliency developed through this and the shared experience will bring us closer together (just not physically:)) as a campus and community.

Jobson: The energy that comes with the start of the academic year – it has been way too long since we all have been together. Let’s get back to what we all love to do!

Kudos to JoHannah Smith

“JoHannah is the indispensable Project Editor and Office Manager of the Van Raalte Institute and should be recognized for her dedicated efforts on behalf of the VRI and the Van Raalte Press during the pandemic.

“Working from home, she has managed to bring three books to the point of publication:  Marc Baer’s history of the Music Department, Bob Swierenga’s history of Timothy Christian Schools in Chicago, and the 2019 proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies (AADAS). It has been an incredibly productive period for the Van Raalte Institute thanks in large part to JoHannah’s diligence.”

— Dr. Donald Luidens, Director of the Van Raalte Institute

How I See God’s Love and Keep Hope in Bangkok, Thailand

Many have lost their jobs; debts are increasing while incomes are paused until who knows when, and so many are starving in lockdown.

As missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand, my parents could not ignore the pleas and stories that they heard from people in our community. So then, what to do?

My mom thought that since our church is paused and doing only online services, we could reroute the money we used to have for lunches on Sundays towards a food mission where we would give out free food every Wednesday. (Asian churches provide lunch on Sundays which might not be common in Michigan). We started off small at a small tent shop that is located in the middle of a three-way road which connects two regions housing people in poverty. These people are the ones who work one day to live another day; factory workers, maids, construction workers, and so on.

I am honored that God is using me in a way where I can serve and help.

With only a USD $70 budget, we were able to feed 500 people during our first week, and it wasn’t enough because we had to send people away when we ran out of food. Then we decided to share about this ministry opportunity with our contacts in Korea and even to people in Michigan. And slowly, people donated to help this mission and the people of Thailand.

Meals to go.

In our second week, our food mission fed 600 people, the third week 700, fourth week 800, and in week 7, 1000 people came in to receive food from us. This mission grew so much in such a short span of time. The governor of the region, heads of villages, policemen started helping us by packing food and making sure that there were no issues with the current laws regarding COVID-19. 

Jesus tells the rich man, go sell all your possessions and help those in need. (Matthew 19:21) This one particular story motivated me while I was serving food in the hot humid weather. Another story that inspired me to this work is when Jesus says that it is through the weak and the poor, we are able to serve Him and do His work. I think to myself that I’m not just serving the people who are starving during this crisis, but I’m also doing the work Christ has planned and assigned for me to do during this time. I am honored that God is using me in a way where I can serve and help. Even though our church is small and limited, we are able to come together to spread God’s love during harsh times for our surrounding communities.

Left to right: Yejin Jang, parents Hee Ja Kim and JungSoo Jang, Hajin Jang

My parents are leaders whom I look up to with utmost respect as they have served as missionaries in Thailand for over 30 years. It would be endless to write down how my parents’ influence affects in my life and faith, but one thing is for sure: without them, I won’t be able to serve and love the people as I do today.

Hajin Jang serves

One saying that my mom always told me while growing up (because I would always complain of our church having people with problems) is how Jesus said it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous; he came for the sinners. (Mark 2:17) Through this passage, I was able to witness my parents’ endurance here as missionaries; as they were cheated, backstabbed, look down upon, and even threatened with death. I learned the meaning of unconditional love as they continued to give their all for the people of Thailand and respect every single person no matter what. Their work as missionaries has taught me how to serve, love unconditionally, and most importantly to have an unshakable faith in God. 

This food mission now not only feeds two communities, but we are also able to send our packaged lunches all the way to six other communities because our whole church comes together to cook, package, and send the food out. By doing this, we not only help starving people, but are also coming together as a community while spreading the love of God, involving people around the world (even from Holland, Michigan), and my church here in Thailand.

Senior Hajin Jang is a recording arts composite major and ministry minor from Bangkok, Thailand. He is the president of the college’s International Club which has “taught me how to be a stronger leader despite differences in culture and race. It has also shown me how to strengthen the community that I am in.  I would like to mention my ministry advisor, Pamela VanPutten, who has a significant role in aiding this food mission all the way from Holland and by sharing the story to churches and friends in the area.”

Jang was also recently featured on the “No Shame” podcast created and hosted by Hope alum, John Grooters ’84. Watch and listen to “When Plans Changes, God Works.”

Back to Campus with Summer Research

For years, a distinctive summer characteristic at Hope College has been the bustling research program called SHARP (Summer Hope Academic Research Program). Hundreds of faculty and students and thousands of dollars in external and internal funding are employed every summer in every division of the college to search out new knowledge in the arts and humanities, social and natural sciences.

This summer will be no exception. Faculty and students will return to conduct on-campus research in mid-July, keeping a defining aspect of Hope intact but this time with Covid-19-deterring guidelines in place.

“SHARP has always been more than an internship or experience.  It is a program enriched with student-faculty collaborations towards better understanding the world.” – Dr. Gerald Griffin

Dr. Gerald Griffin

The decision to do so was recently made by Associate Provost Dr. Gerald Griffin, who oversees the college’s undergraduate research program. Approximately 115 faculty and 120 students are planning to perform summer research in 2020. Some have already started to do remote or field research. Others are waiting to start on campus on July 13.

“Our number one priority (in making the decision to conduct summer research in 2020) was the safety of our SHARP researchers and the safety of the Holland/Ottawa County community as a whole,” said Griffin, who is also a neuroscientist and virologist and has conducted multiple summer research projects at Hope. “We have worked hard to support and implement on-campus research this summer because our undergraduates are not visitors to the laboratory — they are the critical, essential personnel in conducting research activity here at Hope.  Yes, our students get great experiences and skills during SHARP, but they are also a vital component of the critical research workforce at our institution.  This is a distinctive of Hope: we are developing the research leaders of tomorrow by beginning their research careers in full today.” 

Dr. Jennifer Hampton

Dr. Jennifer Hampton, professor of physics and chair of the department, is one of those 115 professors who is currently conducting research with Hope students. Her efforts with senior Forest Rulison and junior Kamaron Wilcox are individually rendered for the most part, each in their own homes working through data sets on material properties for new, alternative batteries. Fortunately, they gathered much of that data last summer in Hope’s Surface Lab. But come July 13, operations on Prussian blue analogs, the material Hampton and her students are researching, will be conducted in-person much to their joy and relief.

“Research is such an important part of the Hope experience for students,” she said. “I think as much as we can, in all areas of the college, we want to be able to keep those Hope things alive as much as possible. I think it’s important to try to do what we can.”

Hampton (top corner), Rulison (middle) and Wilcox (bottom) Google Meet.

Since Wilcox and Rulison have conducted research with Hampton in previous summers, the student-researchers already has a solid foundation in the project. The group looks at the properties of Prussian blue analogs in terms of how they store and release charge as well as determining how much of that material’s charge can be made.

Remote research meant shifting their initial mode of operation to two virtual platforms: a fixed Google Meet (which is available to drop in and out of throughout the day to discuss questions and findings) and on Discord (historically a gaming server with additional communication options).  “I’d never used Discord before, but they [Wilcox and Rulison] told me that using it makes us cool,” Hampton laughed.

Wilcox’s lab notebook

Then there was the time a few weeks ago when Hampton got to see her students face to face, albeit briefly and safely. “I set up a socially distant picnic in a parking lot so I could hand off their lab notebooks. It was so nice to see them.”

If there is one silver lining to starting this year’s research remotely, Hampton says it is having the time to read and discuss existing research literature more deeply. Sometimes when researchers are in the thick of their work on campus, “those kinds of things tend to get pushed to the side,” she observed. “The chance to just dig into some of those papers in a little more careful way has been great.”

Dr. Justin Shorb

For Dr. Justin Shorb, assistant professor of chemistry, working with five students on two chemistry education projects has meant finding brave new ways to conduct research, too. One project is an evaluation of the design of online chemistry teaching materials, and the other uses eye-tracking data to determine a person’s level of understanding of chemistry knowledge.

Shorb uses Google Meet every day to talk with his student researchers, Caleb Bronner, Jonas Peterson, Micah Chrisman, Alaina Hempel, and Safia Hattab, a Michigan Space Grant Consortium Virtual Undergraduate Research Fellow. In addition, he has launched Basecamp, an online project management system, for the first time in his research. It is another way to keep connected both professionally and personally with his student-researchers while they are far apart.

The Shorb Group, clockwise from top left: Safia Hattab, Jonas Peterson, Micah Chrisman, Alaina Hempel, and Caleb Bronner

“On Basecamp, I’ve set up an individual project for just me and each of my students for professional development project,” he says. “That’s a place where they can ask a question about their own personal growth or ask questions about how to approach research or even things that they’re just a little bit too embarrassed to bring up in front of the other people. So, we can talk about those things there. And I have them do journal reflections to think about what they’re learning, because this is not just about the research, it’s about the students experience and growth.”

The admittedly awkward and delayed start of summer research has been challenging but not overwhelming, Hampton and Shorb confide. Their nine to 10 weeks-worth of research may be unlike any other, but they, and all Hope faculty, are committed to giving Hope students the Hope research experience they desire and hope for . . . within realistic expectations.

“I think as much as we can, in all areas of the college, we want to be able to keep those Hope things alive as much as possible.” – Dr. Jennifer Hampton

“There’s been a big push to recognize that our research may not be as productive as usual, meaning we might not get those papers out, we might not get those publications done,” says Shorb. “But this is still one of three summers for our research students in their undergraduate career.”

Indeed, Griffin summarizes the necessity and enthusiasm for Hope summer research best in this way: “SHARP has always been more than an internship or experience.  It is a program enriched with student-faculty collaborations towards better understanding the world.”

I Miss You, Hope College!

*Editor’s Note: Kleenex alert! The reflections below, contributed by Bill Moreau, associate professor of English, show how students are keeping Hope in their hearts by remembering how the college community and its bond are important to them. Their authenticity shows that #keepinghope is both difficult and enduring.

Because of COVID-19, on Wednesday, March 11, the Hope College community was told that we would start our spring break one day early. Athletic excursions did not depart.  Immersion trips evaporated. Chapel Choir’s spring venture dried up. Personal break plans fizzled. Students were told to leave campus the next day and to stay safely at home until April 13. That initial four-week closedown ended up being extended to the end of the semester. Students did not get a chance to say goodbye in any significant way. Classes, meetings, celebrations, and Chapel/Gathering services all went remote. Although many activities continued in a distant, screen-captured way, the human touch on the campus of Hope College resembled a vacant lot. Rumor has it that a few tumbleweeds drifted with the westerly breeze through the Pine Grove and down past Martha Miller and onto the athletic fields just east of DeVos.

Prof. Bill Moreau teaches remotely while a student and her cat listen and learn at home.

After ten weeks of normal face-to-face interaction, a week-long blurred spring break (mainly loaded with hours of figuring out a remote-learning strategy of some sort), and then five weeks of distance-centered classes—plus another week of exams, final projects, and presentations—we finally finished the semester.

I found that the shelter-at-home lives my students were now living had an immense impact on their view of their former lives as college students. Yes, they were still college students during the pandemic readjustment, but they were now college students with a different view of what they once had. To confirm that observation, I asked all of them to respond to the following prompt as part of their exit from my three classes: “What do you miss most about your pre-pandemic life at Hope College?”

Below are some of the thoughtful responses they shared:

“What I miss most about my life at Hope is the sense of freedom. Being back at home has made me feel as if I have taken two steps back in life instead of forward. I miss being able to get coffee with my friends or play intramural sports with my sorority. I miss working at the bookstore and the Science Center or going to the gym when I needed to blow off some steam. Honestly, I miss everything about Hope. I never thought I would miss it this much, but because I never got to properly say goodbye, I feel as if I closed the book on my life in college without actually finishing it.”  (Senior)

“I think the real question is what don’t I miss about Hope College. I miss everything from late night conversations with my roommate, to hard workouts with my teammates, to thoughtful conversations with professors, to singing in Chapel with my friends. I think the overarching theme is that I miss my people. The friends I made at Hope fill my heart with so much joy. I feel so grateful that God led me to Hope and placed those people in my life. I am praying that I will get to see their faces in a few months.”  (First-year student)

“I miss singing! Whether it’s in Chapel Choir or my acapella group (12th Street Harmony), I always enjoy being able to express myself through music. I also miss being able to see everyone that I love at school. You don’t realize how much it brightens your day saying “Hello!” to thirty people in passing throughout the day until you don’t have that experience anymore.”  (Sophomore)

“I have missed interacting with my professors the most while being back home. One of my favorite parts of Hope College is the relationships I get to form with my professors. I truly learn much better when I have one-on-one instruction. I also miss my friends and the activities around campus. It has been quite boring sitting at home. I also really miss having a library and a place to study…and not my kitchen table!”  (Senior)

“I MISS EVERYTHING! I realized how much I take for granted the freedom and the friends that come with living on campus. It has been a very difficult transition for me. I had some personal trouble early in the semester, and it was really helpful to have friends to talk to and lean on when I needed them the most. I really miss the social aspect of Phelps and that feeling you get when you just want to sit and talk for the rest of the night.”  (First-year student)

I really miss walking through campus and running into people I know and being able to spend time in a place where I have so many memories. I also miss being able to do homework on campus. I loved to study in Schaap by the ducks and I miss sitting at those tables and doing homework. I miss seeing my professors and classmates in person and I miss the opportunity I had to go talk with my professors in their offices. I also miss Hope traditions, like Brinner or Spring Fling. If I had to pick one thing I miss most, I would say it would be the Hope community.”  (Senior)

“I miss the physical on-site meetings for Chapel and the Gathering. In the craziness of life, those were my places to be at peace amongst the chaos, usually sitting with my friends by my side. I miss my professors, my friends, my work staff at Campus Ministries and my new Sib Sorority sisters. And finally, I miss my motivation. I would do homework every free moment I had—in either the BSC, the library, or at Campus Ministries. I miss the academic environment I used to be in.”  (First-year student)

“I miss seeing my friends every day. It is such a blessing to be surrounded by people who are so fun, kind, caring, and genuine. Being back at home is very isolating and feels a lot like my senior year of high school, which is not a good thing. I am ready to get back to Holland ASAP. I miss my team and my coaches. I never realized how much they filled me up and challenged me to not only be a better athlete but also a better person. I miss routine, having a definite purpose and plan for each day. I miss walking everywhere and saying hello to people’s faces.”  (First-year student)

“Since not being at Hope I have lost a lot of motivation. Hope gave me that environment that pushed me to do my best work. It has definitely been hard for me to keep this mentality at home. As a senior I also very much miss celebrating all of our accomplishments with friends, professors, and loved ones.”  (Senior)

“At Hope College I am continuously surrounded by people who love me, make me laugh, want to help me strengthen my faith, and push me to be my very best self. While I obviously love my family and being with them, too much family time is a real thing. It is hard to transition from being on your own into a household of seven people. I really miss seeing my best friends, eating dinner with my team, and staying up late to eat grilled cheese from the Kletz with my study buddy. What makes Hope, Hope? The people. The atmosphere at Hope College is what drew me to attending.”  (First-year student)

“I really miss going to class. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated in-person class until it was taken away from me. I love seeing my professors, seeing my friends, having discussions in real life. Class becomes so much more than just class when you are able to have a relationship with your professor and classmates.”  (Senior)

“I miss my job. I was on the Stats Crew and it was such an exciting time. I got to call the play- by-play for all the women’s basketball games and the tournament was so fun. Spring season was just beginning, so I got to see three of my housemates play lacrosse and call their games as well. Most of all, I miss having a routine. The whole world turned upside down and I was certainly not ready for it.”  (Junior)

“In terms of my life at Hope, I do not think I can pinpoint one thing: I miss it all.”  (First-year student)

“I have missed my lacrosse team more than anything. Those women are my family. A lot was taken away from us and it hurts me that we were not able to show how hard we were working. It is strange to me that I will never step on the field again as a Hope women’s lacrosse player. I miss human interaction and living away from home on my own agenda. This was all such a fast transition, and as much as I say I am past it, I am not. I am still in denial. Being cooped up has been so hard.”  (Senior)

“I miss the people of Hope. SO much. I miss my professors, my friends, my roommates, my TEAMMATES, my RAs, my RD. I miss playing softball. I miss falling asleep to the train and then waking up from it at 3:00 in the morning. I just miss Hope College.”  (First-year student)

“I miss my usual study spots the most. I had just gotten the hang of my new schedule and found my favorite ways and places to study so I could be the most productive before we had to leave. At home, unfortunately, my desk is right next to my brother’s room where he plays loud video games all day. I am excited to go back to campus to get back to my usual routine so I can be more productive and honestly just feel like a college student.”  (First-year student)

“I deeply miss my fraternity. I miss the Gathering and being with my best friends. I really miss my girlfriend. This is the longest we have ever gone without seeing each other since we started dating. I miss feeling like I have control of my life. I miss longboarding through campus barefoot. I miss going on double dates with my best friends. I miss being able to look in people’s eyes when we talk. This has been hard, and I will forever miss my last weeks of college. This was supposed to be our victory lap of school. Instead I am sitting in my parents’ basement, feeling like I am missing out.”  (Senior)

“We all had to abruptly say goodbye to the people with whom we had made such close bonds over this past year and that was really hard to do. On that last Wednesday night on campus, my roommate and I watched movies and played games with some friends from our dorm one last time before the COVID-19 shutdown. Before I left the next morning, I had to give her a hug goodbye and we both cried because we knew that we probably weren’t going to be returning to school until the fall. After being home for a few days, I realized that I was sleeping in my room alone and had no one to talk to besides my family. I love my family, but it was odd to spend so much time with them after creating a new life for myself at Hope.”  (First-year student)

“My friends made studying for tests fun and a lot less stressful because we would all stay up late together studying. Now, I find studying for tests to be more stressful because I have to do it all on my own. Also, I miss being able to do my homework in Martha Miller and other places around campus. Now that I am at home, I feel like it is harder to focus on my homework since I am no longer surrounded by other students.”  (First-year student)

“I miss the chance encounters and interactions. I miss saying hello to my groggy housemate in the morning. I miss the pre-class chit-chat with my peers. I miss seeing professors in the hallway and saying hello. I miss heated conversations at the lunch table with my friends. I miss exchanging smiles with the reception desk worker at the Dow. I miss waving across the Pine Grove to a friend passing by. I miss making small talk with the workers at the Kletz. In sum, I miss the interactions with people that I would never organize a Google Hangout to have, but still valued as part of my daily routine.”  (Senior)  

“I miss absolutely everything about being at Hope. I am dying to have one more day of classes, one more meal at Phelps, one more Chapel, one more Gathering. I would love to get a proper goodbye with my friends. I miss my dorm room. I miss feeling like I have a new life after high school and have finally found myself and my people.”  (First-year student)

“I miss the people honestly. I’ve been quarantined in my off-campus housing here in Holland and campus has been so empty it’s almost lonely. I miss the fact that I didn’t get to experience my last semester of college in the way that I thought I would. There was no last bar night, last meal at the Kletz, last walk through the Science Center. We had our last official week of classes on campus as Hope students without even knowing it would be our last. I miss what could have been.”  (Senior)

Keeping Hope with Admissions

Like all of Hope College, the Admissions Office staff had to rely on online communications to deliver their Hope-ful messages to prospective students when the COVID-19 crisis hit. And what a virtual presence they had! Their leadership helped Hope secure an amazing number of deposits for the incoming class of 2024. Congratulations!

Thank you to ALL in the Admission Office for your creative methods, positive spirits and focused efforts in keeping hope with our freshman class. Your many Zoom room chats, Facebook Live, virtual tours and nightly phone calls helped so many still see the wonderful ways they will become integral members of the Hope community. We look forward to meeting our new Hope students in the fall!

— Eva Dean Folkert, director of communication services

Kudos to Pauline and Brad

Pauline Rozeboom, left, and Brad Bouwkamp, right

“Kudos to Pauline Rozeboom and Brad Bouwkamp who have kept CIT’s engine going throughout the current crisis.  They have been in the office every day fielding questions and making remote learning seem technologically effortless.  Brad has also made the mail run to the Holland post office daily which, in turn, makes Campus Mail and Print’s job a bit easier.  Pauline and Brad represent the best of Hope College — the silent workers behind the scenes whose make being part of Hope College such a privilege.  Thank you!”

— Milly Hudgins, director of brand experience

Hope Students Teach Remotely, Too

While almost every Hope student went home to finish their classes via remote learning beginning in late March, some also began to engage in remote teaching, too.

Since April 1, 18 Hope students have volunteered to serve as tutors for children in the Holland area, helping K-12 youngsters navigate school work now entirely sent to and completed from home. The Hope students – from various majors and academic years — have met virtually with their tutees twice a week for a half hour for more than a month. And, some will continue tutoring to the conclusion of the scholastic school year which ends in June.

Annie Kopp, at home in New Hampshire

The idea to connect area children with home-bound Hope students came from more than 800 miles away from Holland, Michigan. Annie Kopp, a rising junior from Lancaster, New Hampshire, and an English and communication double major, had a yearning to help during the COVID-19 crisis. At first, she just wasn’t sure how, but she was determined to figure it out.

“When this pandemic hit, one of the first things in my mind was who’s going to need more help than I need? Because right now, I’m fine. So, who can I help with what I have?” she said. “Then, I went on a walk with my mom (who is a school teacher) and we talked about helping children learn remotely. That led me to write a one-page proposal to Jane Finn (chairperson of the department of education) basically telling her what I wanted to do.”

With Finn’s help and endorsement, Kopp became acquainted with the CASA, Step Up, and Upward Bound organizations on Hope’s campus, all of which provide academic, and normally in-person, support to “at-risk” children in the Holland community. Surveys were sent to parents of children in the three programs to see who was interested and able to receive tutoring via online platforms like Google Meet or Zoom. Hope students were then sent an appeal to sign up as tutors.

“Hope College students love to serve, and we know that they wanted to serve. And not just students in the education program but any student at Hope. This was one way for them to use their gifts.”

At first, 50 Hope students said they were interested in becoming tutors. Kopp eventually paired up 18 Hope students with Holland-area kids who raised their hands for help. And since day one, she has continued to provide support, communication and enthusiasm to all involved.

Dr. Jane Finn

“There was a yearning to give back and people did not know how at first,” and Finn. “Annie helps us find that way. Hope College students love to serve, and we know that they wanted to serve. And not just students in the education program but any student at Hope. This was one way for them to use their gifts.”

As for working with Kopp specifically, Finn has been impressed with the young woman’s fierce desire to make a difference in her college’s hometown from several states away. “I have appreciated Annie’s organization skills. She always on top of things,” said Finn. “When she first emailed me, I told her it’s going take a good amount of her time to do something like this. But she said, ‘That’s okay, I can do this.’ And she has. She’s figured out different ways to navigate and negotiate a new process. She really has been the spearhead.”

“I also think it’s good that Hope students realize that even when you are kind of in distress or don’t feel good, God always has a calling for you. There’s always someone else you can help. I think that’s important to remember.”

Kopp has a bigger hope for what she started beyond the time of COVID-19. She sees broader benefits that are more than educational; she sees them as emotional and spiritual as well.

“This could potentially bring Hope students to become regular tutors during the regular school year. So, I think that’s exciting,” Kopp says. “But I also think it’s good that Hope students realize that even when you are kind of in distress or don’t feel good, God always has a calling for you. There’s always someone else you can help. I think that’s important to remember.”