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.

New Book Offers Courageous Advice for a Daunting Time

Never in his wildest imagination could Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology, have guessed that the release of his first book co-written with his wife, Sara, would come at time when their work would be pertinent to millions of people all at once.

Never could he have known that The Courage to Suffer, a project started three years ago and released by Templeton Press in early March, would be a necessary and widespread call to action for a world beleaguered by the COVID-19 crisis.

Never.

Yet, here we are, staying at home, worried for loved ones, praying for miracles, grieving loss, keeping hope.

Daryl Van Tongeren and Sara Showalter Van Tongeren

And here is the Van Tongerens’ book to guide us through daunting emotions unraveled by a persistent reality. Though written mainly for clinicians — its subtitle is A New Clinical Framework for Life’s Greatest Crises — the 184-page book’s strategies will be appreciated by laypeople going through chronic suffering, Van Tongeren says.

“When we suffer, we realize the finite nature of our humanity and that we don’t have control over things like the coronavirus,” says Van Tongeren. “But suffering is an inherent part of life and these realities are not things for us to be afraid of. They’re just things for us to come to terms with.”

Maybe easier said than done? Van Tongeren offers these words of encouragement for the here and now:

“First, we can start with acceptance. It begins with seeing this pandemic for what it really is and acknowledging that it uncovers some deep fears we have, such as our own mortality, our lack of control, and the uncertainty of life.

“Second, we can ask ourselves what our core fear is, because this often is tied to love. That is, we may fear losing those we care about because we love them. Once we realize that fear can point toward love, we don’t have to be afraid of fear. We can use this as information to help us identify those things we love.

“Third, we can engage with vulnerable compassion. We can turn toward others who are suffering with compassion, knowing that they, like us, are vulnerable and deserve empathy, love, and kindness. This will help us realize that some of these fears can move us into more authentic living.”

As for The Courage to Suffer, the Van Tongerens offers more wisdom to work through suffering, using a storytelling arc of their own personal suffering as they integrate an existential and positive psychology approach. Daryl, as a social psychologist, and Sara, as a licensed clinical social worker, walk readers through five different stages of darkness and light, describing how we first deal with the sting of suffering and how we can then push forward into the painful darkness and come through the other side toward authentic living that honors the pain of our suffering.

“These virtues do not mean that we ignore the reality of the pain and loss that many are facing. Rather, we can choose to respond virtuously knowing full well the weight of this pandemic.”

“Many people question some of their fundamental beliefs in suffering. That’s normal,” Van Tongeren says, “but they can begin rebuilding the way that they need to see the world. Then they can choose to live with authenticity moving forward.”

Van Tongeren also says there are strengths and virtues that help us live a flourishing life in the face of suffering, especially during the intense time of COVID-19. They just might be the emotional, social, and relational panacea for the crisis we face now.

“First, we can be grateful: for those of us who are still healthy, for our relationships, for small things that bring us joy and meaning,” he says. “Second, we can be humble: we can listen to the orders to stay indoors for the benefit of others, even if we feel less vulnerable. Third, we can be courageous: to face the uncertainty of the future with hope and resolve, knowing that together, we will get through this.

“And these virtues do not mean that we ignore the reality of the pain and loss that many are facing. Rather, we can choose to respond virtuously knowing full well the weight of this pandemic.”