All the Internet’s a Stage for Hope Faculty

They have no props, or costumes, or scenery. But that’s a not a problem and that’s not the point. What they do have is all that they need: a play script, a Zoom room, and a gladness for a connection with friends in the Hope community.

Every Monday night for the past three weeks, approximately 30 members of the Hope faculty have pulled up a chair in front of their home computers, opened the script of “Our Town” or “Shakespeare in Love” or “Borrowed Babies,” activated their creative juices, and collectively read aloud each play’s narrative while in character.

The idea for such a collaboration in this time of social distancing came from Michelle Bombe, professor of theatre and chairperson of the department.

“With theatre, when we are at our best, we give people ideas to think about and concepts to consider, but we also give them a little window into another world as a form of escape that people need, that people crave.”

“When Covid-19 first started, I thought, does what I do matter? I wish I were a nurse. I wish I were doing something that was really of help,” she said. “At some point, I thought, ‘No, I do have something.’ Theatre can make a difference and satisfies my need to be of service in some way during this time.”

And as most things do in academia, it started with students in mind.

“Our (theatre) students are accustomed to having rehearsal every night,” Bombe says. “And they are lost at sea right now with not having a creative project, but also not having that creative community. It’s part of what we do in theatre: create this sense of community by working on a piece of art together.”

Michelle Bombe projected on Joanne Stewart’s big screen before the start of a Monday night faculty play-reading.

So, since the spring production of “Twelfth Night” was cancelled (postponed actually as it will be the opening production in the fall), every Wednesday since late March, Bombe and her students have met to conduct play readings. It’s been a release . . . and a revelation because she then thought, why not do the same with her colleagues from across the Hope faculty? Perhaps they are in need, and want, of a community to help them connect, process and rethink their time physically away from each other, too?

“With theatre, when we are at our best, we give people ideas to think about and concepts to consider, but we also give them a little window into another world as a form of escape that people need, that people crave,” explains Bombe.

“But it’s also about the community around that escape. That’s what the faculty have appreciated. Just the fact that they’re getting to see everybody’s faces in a different way. I mean, it’s one thing to see each other in a committee or department meeting on Zoom – and the faculty have been great in those meetings to interject humor and not have it just be about business. But it’s not the same thing as having a social time together. And that’s what these play readings are doing for us.”

Dr. Jayson Dibble, associate professor of communication, concurs. As relational communications specialist, he was drawn to the Monday night readings for their connections that “transcend video screens and WiFi airwaves. Humans are social creatures,” he says. “We find ways to connect even when we don’t have available our preferred channels.”

The faculty readers of Shakespeare in Love.

His other rationale for taking a role in “Shakespeare in Love”: He probably would have been watching a two-plus-hours movie anyway. “So rather than watch a recording of drama,” he explains, “I could witness that drama unfold live. And all this while getting a glimpse of my beloved Hope colleagues.”

Bombe chose “Our Town” for its meaning, “Shakespeare in Love” for its fun, and “Borrowed Babies” for its message. “Our Town” in particular was a crucial choice as the first play in the lineup. Launching the project from good footing was a priority, and she found some of that strong base when President Matthew A. Scogin agreed to read the part of the Stage Manager, a role that serves as a leader and spokesperson in the play to familiarize the audience with various aspects of the town of Grover’s Corners.

“I have been so thankful to have Matt Scogin as our president as we go through this time,” she says, “because as a leader, he’s giving us direction and comfort with all kinds of things we need to hear as encouragement.”

“I also thought, we need something that’s going to help us think about what we have, not what we lost,” Bombe explains. “That’s what I think ‘Our Town’ is about. It helps us stop for a second and really look at our lives. And that’s the gift, I think, that is coming out of this pause in our time of hurry, hurry. Now we are forced to slow down.

“But I also feel incredibly guilty because I’m comfortable in my home,” she continues. “I have food and I have everything I need. And so many people don’t. So, I know it’s a double-edged sword here. But the gift that’s part of this is the fact that we’re all going to look at what we have and be so thankful.  That’s what ‘Our Town’ means for me. It’s not the special things. It’s not the highlights. It’s the everyday part of life that matters.”

“I am very sad about the cancelled Hope Summer Repertory Theatre season, and this alleviates some of that sadness,” Joanne Stewart says.

Some colleagues like Dr. Joanne Stewart, professor of chemistry, just drop in to listen and watch. Like Dibble, she is gladdened by the community the readings provide as well as for their provision for another purpose.  “I am very sad about the cancelled Hope Summer Repertory Theatre season, and this alleviates some of that sadness,” Stewart says.

Dibble has other takeaways, too, such as fond memories of “getting to see more of some folks’ sense of play and lightheartedness. Realizing that even if we’re physically separated, we can still create together. And we can still laugh together.”

Oh, and this one last thing: “If you haven’t heard Sonja Trent-Brown’s cockney-accented nurse (for ‘Shakespeare in Love’), then you’re not living at all!”

Keeping Hope with CURCA

Dr. Gerald Griffin, left, and Laura McMullen, right, the masterminds behind the virtual CURCA event.

“I want to note the wonderful contributions of (program manager) Laura McMullen and (associate provost) Dr. Gerald Griffin to our collective life as a campus and their tireless work on behalf of our students. The reimagining of the Celebration of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (CURCA) as a remote event, with students giving verbal presentations in virtual rooms, was inspired. It was also executed beautifully. Our students, many who would have been also giving off-campus presentations this semester if it were not for the current health crisis, had the opportunity to showcase their excellent work. Friends and parents joined the rooms and learned from their research. Alumni, friends of the college, and academics from across the country and world joined to participate in this event; some of them were wanting to learn about whether they too could coordinate such an event. Laura provided training for the moderators, worked with CIT to ensure a workable system, set up all of the rooms, and provided wonderful communication and encouragement to students. I am so grateful!”

— Dr. Lindsey Root Luna, associate professor of psychology

Keeping Hope at the Van Raalte Institute

“I nominate Dr. Donald A. Luidens, director of the Van Raalte Institute, for his efforts to create and maintain an esprit de corps of our small group of dedicated scholars. Four weeks ago today, he initiated a daily round robin conversation in place of our daily coffee time, when we normally share insights gained from our research, talk about local, national and international news, or reminisce about past experiences. He has creatively put forward conversation starters and thoughtful reflections on how to think theologically about the covid-19 pandemic. Two weeks ago, he added a weekly Zoom coffee hour, when we can all see each other on screen and converse with each other.”

— Jack Nyenhuis, Director Emeritus, Van Raalte Institute

Jaclyn Klinger’s Move from Freshman Res Hall to Senior Living Center

When freshman Jaclyn Klinger returned home to Noblesville, Indiana, on March 12 for Hope’s spring break and online classes that were supposed to last only until April 13, she decided to make the most of the situation and head back to work at Northridge Gracious Retirement Living, her place of employment while in high school. She thought working odd shifts for a few weeks at the senior independent living center would give her extra spending money and some flexibility.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic caused Indiana to declare stay-at-home orders on March 23 and when Hope’s temporary move to remote classes became permanent until the end of the spring semester, Klinger made a somewhat long-term decision, too. Instead of just taking shifts here and there, and instead of going back and forth from her home to work them, she decided to stay put at Northridge 24/7.

Klinger has been living there since March 24.

Jaclyn Klinger at the piano at Northridge.

“I didn’t think that [the national crisis] would really get to the point where it is right now so quickly,” says Klinger. “One of my coworkers told me that our boss asked her if she wanted to move in, because it’s just easier and safer being in the building. I was like, ‘That’s an interesting idea.’

“So, I talked to my parents about it, and my mom, who is a nurse, said, ‘It honestly might be a better idea if you’re at the building because if I picked something up at the hospital, and you went into work and passed on the virus to a resident, I’d feel awful.’ So, I just decided to move in.”

Klinger and her co-workers now help in a myriad of different ways at Northridge — serving meals to the residents’ doors, taking out their trash, offering snacks on a cart, walking their dogs. Their small acts of service are a huge help to residents who must stay put.

“Right now, the current state is that the residents are not really allowed to leave their rooms,” she says. “We currently don’t have any [COVID-19] cases in the building, but there are few other retirement homes in the area that do have cases. I think they’re really just trying to increase the safety of the residents and keeping them from sharing anything.”

An instrumental music education major who specializes on French horn, Klinger also plays the piano. Since a baby grand is located in a Northridge common area, she uses it every morning to practice or take her remote keyboard class with Professor Linda Strouf. “Sometimes they are just hearing my random, weird assignments,” Klinger laughs, “but they enjoy hearing the music, I think. They say it sounds nice.”

“She comes to my class every day with her work done and a smile on her face from making a difference in the world in which she is currently living,” says Strouf.

“Being here, I feel thankful that I’m able to work and that I’m healthy, too. I’m glad I can give back to residents with music or chats. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the really small things that we take for granted in a normal-life situation.”

While in the past, Klinger worked solely in the facility’s dining room, now she sees residents a bit more in their living environments, but always from a safe, social distance. She found out that one resident couple loves swing dance and another Trivia Night. One woman enjoys oil painting and recently gave Klinger one of her works of art. “I had just stopped by to offer her a snack, and she said, ‘You see those paintings over there. I paint those. Pick one and it’s yours.’ So, I have a small painting of a mountain range. It was so sweet.”

Though she talks with her parents and sister almost every day (and sees them occasionally when they drop off personal goods and laundry), Klinger knows that living and working at Northridge during this crisis has given her a new appreciation for both the generation she serves as well as her own.

“Their everyday life has changed so much. They miss their friends who live down the hall, just like I miss mine at Hope,” Klinger reflects. “But they’re super thankful that they’re still healthy, that they can still get up and walk around and take care of themselves.

“So, it’s nice to think about that when I feel bummed out about not being back at Hope. That’s the hardest thing for me. I don’t get to finish my semester. I felt like I was getting close to all these people I was meeting. And now, it’s all cut off.  

“But being here, I feel thankful that I’m able to work and that I’m healthy, too. I’m glad I can give back to residents with music or chats. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the really small things that we take for granted in a normal-life situation.”

Kudos to the Center for Global Engagement

“My shout-out goes to Amy Otis (senior director) and the entire Center for Global Engagement team for their tireless work with international students and all students who were studying abroad this semester. They have all been going above and beyond, every day. Amy’s work on the coronavirus started back in January and she hasn’t stopped since. Thank you, Amy and team, for making sure that Hope students are well cared for. You are amazing!” — An appreciative, anonymous observer

National Online Book Club Provides Better Living through Literature While Staying at Home

With the global COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the U.S. in March, closing schools and prompting stay-home orders nationwide, literacy specialist Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, associate professor of English education, pondered how as an educator she could help the school-aged children being affected. As she connected online with colleagues around the country who were in her professional network, it turned out that many of them felt the same way.

The medium and their collective expertise combined to suggest a format. So was born the first National Online Book Club for Kids, an opportunity for 4th through 6th grade students to meet on Zoom to discuss a different selected book each week beginning on Thursday, April 2. 

And as a bonus:  The authors join them.

Dr. Deborah Van Duinen

“In thinking about how I could respond to the COVID19 outbreak as a literacy professor, it seemed only fitting to explore the ways I could help people, in this case, 4th through 6th graders, come together through reading during this time of uncertainty,” said Van Duinen.  “With schools and libraries currently closed, the idea of coming together virtually to talk about books, meet famous authors, and use these conversations to help us cope and respond to our new ‘normals’ seemed most fitting.”

Van Duinen has long been a book-club enthusiast.  As a parent, she organizes in-person, mother-daughter and mother-son book clubs.  She’s done the same on a grander scale since 2014 as founding director of the Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read Lakeshore, which are Hope-organized programs that each fall engage thousands of community residents in exploring a common text.

The month-long Big Read programs — which are built around books like To Kill a Mockingbird, the Vietnam War memoir The Things They Carried, and the post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven — and the Little Read programs that feature children’s books emphasize not only the pleasure of reading but exploring the larger issues that the books raise.  In the same way, the online club’s selections and discussions are considering themes like hope, grief, loss of control, and caring for and finding strength through connection to others.

“As the director of the Big Read Lakeshore, I’ve seen firsthand the beautiful things that happen when people come together around a common book,” Van Duinen said.  “During this time of COVID19, we need more spaces and places where community can be fostered. We also need good books to speak into how we are feeling and making sense of what is happening around us.”

The club’s premiere on April 2, featuring author Ruth Vanderzee and her book Next Year: Hope in the Dust, gathered 100 participants.  A week later, with Cece Bell and her book El Deafo, it was 200 children. And the numbers have continued to climb.

Envisioning, developing and running the online book club has very much been a team effort.  The organizers, all of whom are volunteers, include about 10 educators, among them not only college faculty like Van Duinen but elementary and high school librarians, teachers and counselors from a mix of rural and urban systems.  The Big Read and Little Read programs always bring the books’ authors to Hope or Holland, a model that’s continued virtually with each book club session.

“The authors are valued partners in what we’re doing,” Van Duinen said.  “They’ve all been enthusiastic about participating and generous with their time.”

Each club meeting runs an hour.  Following a brief welcome and introduction, the authors talk about their book and then participate in a question-and-answer time with the children, after which everyone divides into small-group breakout sessions with discussion questions based on the book.  The discussions are guided, led by teachers, professors and school counselors as well as Hope education students.  The children then come back together for a whole-group wrap-up.

“As the director of the Big Read Lakeshore, I’ve seen firsthand the beautiful things that happen when people come together around a common book,” Van Duinen said.  “During this time of COVID19, we need more spaces and places where community can be fostered. We also need good books to speak into how we are feeling and making sense of what is happening around us.”

Having promoted the online book club through their own social media and (socially distanced) word of mouth, the organizers weren’t sure what sort of turnout to expect, but the response has been gratifying.  The club’s premiere on April 2, featuring author Ruth Vanderzee and her book Next Year: Hope in the Dust, gathered 100 participants.  A week later, with Cece Bell and her book El Deafo, it was 200 children who Zoom-ed in from throughout the United States with interested participants from Puerto Rico, Canada and England.  And the numbers have continued to climb, an enthusiastic response that has prompted the team to continue the club’s run well past the initial plan.

“It’s amazing how wide the reach has been.  People none of us are connected with are finding out about it,” Van Duinen said.  “We were just going to do it for a few weeks, but because of the positive responses that we’ve received from students, parents and authors, we’re going through the end of May.”

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To learn more about the book club, and especially if you know a 4th-6th grader who would enjoy the club, please visit its website or find it on Instagram or Facebook.  In addition to the April 2 and 9 events mentioned in the story, the books and authors currently scheduled are:  Merci Suárez Changes Gears, with Meg Medina (April 16); Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, with John David Anderson (April 23); Bridge to Terabithia, with Katherine Patterson (April 30); Front Desk, with Kelly Yang (May 7); Superman Smashes the Klan, with Gene Leun Yang (May 14); and Refugee, with Alan Gratz (May 21). 

The club meets at 5 p.m. EST (2 p.m. PST and 4pm CST). Advance registration is required.

Kudos to the Dine at Hope Team

“I want to give a shout out to the Dine At Hope leadership team, specifically Service Manager Liz Hinkley, who organized these cute Easter Bags for our students staying on campus. Students were quite surprised on Sunday morning to come in and have a bright colorful gift waiting for them along with their meal!”

— Bob VanHeukelom, Director of Hospitality Operations

Keeping Hope with Campus Safety

That old adage — “to keep the home fires burning,” meaning to maintain a sustaining routine while others are away — is precisely what the men and women of Hope College Campus Safety have been doing since Hope formally shifted to remote operations.

Yes, it’s extremely quiet around Hope right now. But Campus Safety personnel are still maintaining their regular safety routines 24/7, still working the front lines, still answering calls, still keeping watch over a 150-acre campus and the few dozen students who remain to live there. Their commitment to upholding the security of the college community has retained its same high standards ever since this unprecedented crisis hit.

“I am so thankful for the Campus Safety team’s dedication to keeping the students and campus safe during this difficult time,” said Kara Slater, director of operations. “Their professionalism and dedication to Hope College is especially evident during a time like this. “

A BIG “Keeping Hope” thank-you to these Campus Safety workers:

OFFICERSDISPATCHERS
Jeff HertelTodd Achterhof
Michael KasherMary Speet
Henry ChenCassie Kregger
Jeff VanderKooyLuke Scott
Mike EverseSelina Qualkenbush
Mike LafataAbby Veltman
Joel SernaLynn VanderVeen
Jason GeurinkNancy Curnick
Glendene LahrLali Brunink
Al RiosKristi VanIngen
Rick Altimara
Tim VanDyke
Les Smith

Hope Helps Provide PPEs

The news is rife with stories about personal protective equipment (PPEs) being in short supply for the medical community. Masks, gloves and gowns are literal lifesavers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those supplies can also be found in abundance in collegiate research laboratories but at Hope, not any more. Much of the college’s PPE stock has been donated to area hospitals.

Hope PPEs became area hospital PPEs.

Dr. Jeffrey Johnson of the chemistry department, Dr. Brian Rider of the kinesiology department, and Lori Hertel of the biology department have delivered dozens of cases of masks, gowns, safety glasses, gloves and hair coverings from the various Hope labs to Holland Community Hospital as well as Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

“Once we transferred over to online instruction, it was obvious that health professionals would need this equipment long before our students,” said Johnson. “I’m just thankful for the faculty and departments across campus who so willingly donated their supplies.”

Even before the CDC declared that homemade masks would be helpful protection during the pandemic, Kristin Underhill ’95 of the art department began churning out cloth facemasks to aid front-liners. To date, she estimated she’s made more than 150.

Krisin Underhill’s home office and production line

“They’ve gone as far as a research team printing masks in Missouri to a clinic in Wisconsin.  And most are Hope connected,” she said.  “My freshman year roomie messaged me and said her husband is the only doctor at a clinic in Wisconsin and said ‘please send masks.’ I sent some to Chicago for my junior year roomie’s husband who is a first responder. And I did send a couple to my brother in Cincinnati who is a manager at a Meijer on the front lines stocking and restocking and cleaning his store.”

“But my desktop computer from Hope is in the same room as my ironing board and sewing machine, so it’s literally the home office and a production line,” Underhill added. “I can’t get some supplies fast enough it seems.”

Adam Peckens of the engineering department set up two of the department’s tabletop 3D printers in his basement after the Michigan governor issued a stay-at-home order effective Tuesday, March 24, thus closing down all of Hope’s campus. The printers are now linked to the #3Dc19 coalition, a group of individuals, businesses, and organizations that have 3D printing capabilities to create components for ventilators, reusable masks and face shields. 

Hope’s MakerBots create face shield components.

Hope’s 3D printers are running support brackets for face shields, creating about 20 a day that then will be attached to the clear part of shields which are supplied by another organization.

“This is a pretty expansive network of individuals, and I was introduced to it by my colleague in the engineering department, Susan Ipri Brown,” said Peckens. “She is also supporting this endeavor in other ways.”

“I manage a non-profit called The Little Stuff Fund that helps with small community projects, and I was asked to partner with this non-profit coalition in order to raise funds,” Ipri Brown said. “Many companies and individuals are giving their time and effort to printing these components. The fund raising that I’m managing is paying for the raw materials and shipping costs that these volunteers are using to make and deliver the parts.”

If you know of others in the Hope community who are serving those on front lines of this crisis, please let us know. Leave a comment on this Keeping Hope blog post.