Alumni Feature – Hannah Raycraft

by Hannah Johnsen ’16 Raycraft

It is funny now as I look back on my 18 year-old self about to start college. I was under the impression, as most soon-to-be college students are, that I had to know what I was going to study for the next four years as soon as I stepped foot on campus. Then after graduation, I was supposed get a job in that field and work at it for the rest of my life. I mean, who can blame me, or most college freshmen, for thinking this way? Every adult I encountered, after all, was asking, “So, what are you going to study?” This really means, “So, have you figured out what you are going to do for the rest of your life?” At least, it felt that way to me. I was supposed to be able to make this important decision before I even took a college class, right?

Well, no, of course not. My 23-year-old self knows that my 18-year-old self didn’t have to feel this way. But even though I fell victim to the overwhelming pressure of having to figure my professional life out back then, there were a few things I knew to be true about myself. I have always been creative, stubborn and independent. I am passionate about health and wellness, and I am curious about anatomy and nutrition. But, if I am being completely honest, a lot of these passions stemmed from insecurities I had. Like many young girls, I struggled with body image and lacked self-esteem. So when I had to pick a major, I chose exercise science because I figured that would help me understand how I could control my body better, and then when I graduated, I could help other people too.

That was the plan. I wasn’t sure how to make it happen, but I was going to stick with that plan, God willing.

So, I majored in exercise science, as I said, and enjoyed my classes very much, but I struggled with what I wanted to do when I graduated. I was in a constant battle between trusting God and His plan for me and my own fears and insecurities about my life. In the deepest part of my heart, I always knew that I was going to do something great, and that God was going to open doors at the right time. But how would I know when and where to find them?

The summer before my senior year, I went on Hope’s Vienna May and June terms. Before I returned to the U.S, I decided to extend my trip and went to visit my father’s cousin who lives in Germany. It was here that I discovered the tiger nut. This common food item to my distant family was completely foreign to me, but I fell in love with it so I brought some home for my family to try. Everyone loved it. The tiger nut breakfast porridge I had in Germany turned into a channel for my passion and dreams. You see, the tiger nut isn’t actually a nut; it is a small root vegetable that is high in iron, magnesium, and potassium. A powerhouse food, to say the least. But I had a problem when I got back home to Michigan. The tiger nut is not readily available in America.

Fast forward two years and I am now a small business owner at age 23, an unexpected and unordinary outcome of my exercise science degree which obviously did not include classes on how to run a business. But this is the beauty of a degree from liberal arts college. I discovered one goal of a Hope College education is to expose me to more than just my major; Hope allows me, encourages me even, to acquire knowledge and skills in other disciplines too.

It was during the second half of my Hope College career, I started taking a few leadership classes. Ultimately these additional courses helped lead me to where I am today: as the proud owner of Spera Foods. (Spera, as you may know, means hope!) I gained my passion for the human body and my understanding of the importance of nutrition for human function during my exercise science studies. However, it was my time in Hope’s Leadership program and HEI (Hope Entrepreneurial Institute) where I gained knowledge and confidence to create a small business.

Without one or the other academic experience, my journey may have looked significantly different, but thanks to the depth and breadth of coursework at Hope, I am here today looking at my past with a smile and a sigh of relief that I couldn’t have taken when I first started school. I am so glad I had the opportunity to study abroad and discover the tiger nut. It was a missing piece to the puzzle I started to solve my junior year.  My schedule had more flexibility then and I started taking classes outside of the kinesiology department. My senior self strategized and found a class that fit in my schedule, that I heard was fun and interesting. That class was Leadership 231: Leading the Startup Process.

Senior year came with the perfect combination of peace and fear. I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated, but I also knew God had a plan. During my time in my leadership class, I started to use my creativity to solve a problem: how to find access to tiger nut products and turn that access into a business. All the pieces started to fall into place when I created Spera Foods. What started a college major, and then as a class project due to a liberal arts education, has now turned into my career.  And it is the perfect channel for my passion.


Interested in learning more about Spera Foods?  Visit their website or follow on Instagram or Facebook.


Family First: The Dennis Towns Story

By Eva Dean Folkert

A team is a family. The phrase has been used so often in the sports world lexicon that it’s prone to sounding trite or cliché. A team is a family. Is it predictable? Maybe. Overused? Possibly. But clichés are also this: they are true.

To say A team is a family is to recognize that athletes and coaches bond together for relational reasons as strong and real as blood relatives do for genetic ones.  And at Hope, to say A team is a family is to also know that those familial feelings extend far beyond one team to encompass an entire athletic program, from administrators to support staff to parents to even spectators… for the sake of all and for the sake of one.

Just ask Hope junior basketball player Dennis Towns.

Late in a game during his freshmen year at Hope, Towns was flying. A gravity-defying leap for a rebound — a Towns’ trademark lifted high a hundred times before in DeVos Fieldhouse — looked so superhuman that his hang-time bordered on the surreal. Well, at least it did until he landed. Reality hit when Towns came down to earth.

Here, let him tell you.

“There was about 30 seconds left in the game and we were on defense and the other team missed about five layups in a row.  So, I kept jumping for the rebound and eventually on the last one, my foot was kind of turned inward a little bit.  So, when I came down, the outside of my foot landed on top of someone else’s foot. And I was coming down from a high jump, too.  Anyway, my ankle rolled almost completely over and dislocated and slid right out of place.  I didn’t feel anything break, but when I sat down and looked at my foot, it was like, ‘oh, my goodness.’  I had never been injured previously up until that point. Like never!  I had never missed a game in high school or college.  Just seeing that was mind blowing.”

The “that” that Towns saw — as well as most in attendance in DeVos — was a foot pointing in a direction that no human foot is meant to point. It was turned out in an almost perpendicular manner to the side of his leg, a wrong-way right angle.

“The support that everyone in the building showed my mom that night was very touching, and I knew that it was very genuine.”

Towns grabbed at his ankle in panic and pain. Gasps went up and then silence came over the crowd. Hope’s athletic trainers sprang into action while the faces of teammates and coaches expressed immediate concern. And in the stands, Towns’ mother, Carol, was distraught.

“When she saw that, she was just very flustered. The support that everyone in the building showed my mom that night was very touching, and I knew that it was very genuine,” says Towns, a native of Flint, Michigan, and graduate of Flint Powers Catholic. “That’s one thing I am very grateful to the Hope community for because my mom was hysterical. She had never seen me hurt before.   Everyone was offering to help — the athletic trainers, basketball parents and even spectators. And of course, Coach was there for me and her too.”

After x-rays confirmed no break but a severe dislocation and after Carol Towns realized her son would be well cared for and play again at Hope, Dennis Towns went about the arduous work of rehab, hours of physical pushing and, of course, patience. And the support for the Townses kept rolling in. A get-well card was sent to Dennis from Hope basketball fans in attendance at a H-Club luncheon; athletic trainer Tim Koberna and jayvee coach Chad Carlson attended his first doctor’s appointment along with Carol; and, text and email messages of concern and well wishes dinged notifications of concern and encouragement to both of their phones.

“I mean, people I didn’t even know from Hope were checking in and asking me how things were going for Dennis,” offers Carol. “The support we received from the whole Hope community was phenomenal.”

By his sophomore year, Towns was ready to play again; his ankle healed, he became an integral cog off the bench during Hope’s 2016-17 MIAA championship season. This year, the computer science major, who also dabbles in piano and speaks Japanese, is projected to be a starting forward.

“Dennis can shoot that mid-range baseline jumper, which is kind of a no man’s land shot, but he loves it,” says Mitchell, now in his fourth year as Hope’s head coach. “Every day with Dennis seems like this explosion of potential and just a kind of joy for the game. He has an energy that reverberates.”

“I feel I can always go to him for anything. I think that will remain even after I graduate.”

Those are words Towns appreciates though they’re not totally new to his ears. Mitchell has not only been a coach but a mentor to Towns, a voice of encouragement and direction.

“Coach has been confident in me from the beginning,” Towns says.  “That’s one thing I can definitely say about our relationship.  I’ve always felt like he believed in me as a player and a person.  I’m glad that is a quality that he has because last year, being a sophomore on varsity with all the upperclassmen, it was like you can fall into a funk, wondering if you’re going to play.  But, Coach always was there to encourage me to work hard.  When I’m on the court, I’ve always been someone to give it all I have.  He sees that and encourages that. I feel I can always go to him for anything. I think that will remain even after I graduate.”

“That’s who we all are at Hope. Maybe a lot of folks don’t realize that from the tri-fold brochure, but I think once they are here, they quickly see that Hope is a place that cares deeply about players and students.”

A team is a family. And not just for one season but beyond. For Mitchell, coaching basketball is as much about loving people as loving the game… and in that order.

“I’m not looking for a pat on the back. I just think that’s the best part of coaching,” Mitchell explains. “It isn’t practice; it’s the relationships. It’s seeing Dennis’ mom getting emotional about the love she received that night (of his injury) and how everybody just kind of helped her decompress and assured her that everything was going to be okay. As she’s walking from the arena to the training room and then heading to the hospital, it was really hard for her. And so I think the support of Hope and our coaching staff and our team was reassuring.”

“But that’s what Hope is,” he continues. “That’s who we all are at Hope. Maybe a lot of folks don’t realize that from the tri-fold brochure, but I think once they are here, they quickly see that Hope is a place that cares deeply about players and students…. I would much rather get invited to a player’s wedding than have him score 20 points. Lifelong relationships are what this is all about.”

Then Mitchell pauses and smiles and adds,

“But if I’m being completely honest, the 20 points is good too.”

Author’s Notes:

Learn a bit more about Dennis Towns here.

Taking SHAPE

One of our favorite prolate spheroids.

As physical educators and coaches, we love SHAPES. From the rectangles, squares, and circles of our courts and fields to the spheres, cylinders, and prolate spheroids used in the sports and activities that we teach, SHAPES are important to us. However, in the Hope College Kinesiology Department we recently celebrated a different type of SHAPE. In the past, you have been able to read regularly about the success of Hope athletes using the aforementioned “shapes,” but we would like to tell you how a group of students excelled in another SHAPE.

On October 27, Hope College’s Physical Education faculty members traveled with eleven students to the SHAPE conference in Lansing, Michigan.  SHAPE stands for Society of Health and Physical Educators and every year this professional association holds a conference where students and professionals come together to attend sessions on trends in physical education and health. This annual meeting allows professionals to learn, discuss and examine current best practices as it relates to curricular design and teaching methodology. After the day long conference was completed, an awards dinner took place and that is where our story starts to take on a new form as several Hope College students took home prestigious SHAPE awards and scholarships. At this ceremony, each individual institution is allowed to select and honor its Major of the Year.

Michael Barnett and Mandy Traversa

The Hope College SHAPE Major of the Year award winners were Amanda (Mandy) Traversa and Michael Barnett.  Hope College faculty in the Physical Education and Health program evaluate candidates for their academic standing, passion for the profession, and potential in teaching.

Mandy (‘16) is currently teaching full-time in Brandon, Michigan.  Her current teaching assignment is in the freshman physical education and health program at Brandon High School.  As a student at Hope, Mandy worked hard to develop skills for teaching others what she is passionate about. Her growth over the course of her time at Hope was remarkable and the faculty is so proud of the teacher she has become.

Michael Barnett (anticipated graduation in May, 2018) will student teach during the Spring of 2018 at West Ottawa Public Schools.  Michael excels in the classroom. It makes no difference if he is the student or teacher.  He is a very motivated and energetic teacher who thrives in the physical education setting. His care for students is deep, his energy is infectious and students are drawn to him as a role model and mentor.  This past summer Michael was able to show his love for education and kids as he worked at Kids Rock Summer Camp in Zeeland. He planned activities for and impacted the lives of a new group of campers each week.  Michael has a gift for teaching and Hope’s faculty is happy to acknowledge his great work with this award.

Left to Right: Michael Barnett, Michael Stephen, and Katrina Ellis

In addition to the awards selected and presented by Hope faculty, we also had three students win $1000 SHAPE scholarships.  With only six scholarships awarded state-wide, this is a testament to the quality of teachers educated at Hope College. The scholarship winners were Michael Barnett, mentioned above, Michael Stephen, and Katrina Ellis.  Michael Stephen, a fifth year senior, is currently student teaching at Holland Christian and will graduate in December.  In addition to his student teaching responsibilities, Michael is also on the Hope College Football coaching staff, as an assistant offensive line coach.  Based on past experience, we are confident that his positive impact on the lives of students will continue throughout his career as a teacher and coach. Katrina Ellis is currently student teaching in Hamilton where she works with middle school students. This is a perfect fit for Katrina as she is one of those unique and special teachers who are able to match the energy and enthusiasm of students in this age group. Like the other award winners, we are proud of Katrina who demonstrated hard work and commitment to her profession by excelling in the classroom while also balancing time as a student-athlete.

Thanks for letting us share how shapes and SHAPE are important to us and our students. This year’s conference was a visible example of the quality of students and student-athletes that we get to interact with on a daily basis.  We are so proud and grateful to play a role in the professional development of these amazing students. They represent themselves, their chosen profession, and Hope College in an extremely positive manner. We are proud of these young professionals and know that they are just starting to make a difference in the lives of students. Years in the future if students of these educators are asked to use a shape to describe their feelings toward them, it is our belief that they will think of a heart. They are truly special. Well done Ms. Traversa, Mr. Barnett, Ms. Ellis, and Mr. Stephen…..well done.

Health Dynamics: Going Strong!


Health Dynamics students get to enjoy a variety of activities during their activity sessions.

This fall, Hope College enters the 39th year of its KIN 140 – Health Dynamics program. This required course, often taken during a student’s freshman year, focuses on various wellness principles, such as exercise, proper diet, and stress management. The two credit course is a staple of Hope’s general education curriculum and involves one hour of lecture and two hours of exercise per week. The type of exercise varies between aerobic (running, walking, swimming), resistance (weight training), flexibility (stretching), and game/recreation-type activities.


Dr. Richard Peterson, the first Health Dynamics program director, stated that the goal of the course was not simply to educate students, but to instill in them an “intrinsic” motivation towards exercise. Nearly forty years later this remains the primary goal of Health Dynamics.

Health Dynamics began in the 1970s in an effort to cultivate a positive attitude towards health and fitness among Hope students. Dr. Richard Peterson, the first Health Dynamics program director, stated that the goal of the course was not simply to educate students, but to instill in them an “intrinsic” motivation towards exercise. Nearly forty years later this remains the primary goal of Health Dynamics.

Health research continues to illustrate the important role exercise plays in the prevention of many chronic diseases. Despite this growing body of research the physical activity (PA) levels of Americans have declined sharply in recent years. Currently, only 20% of Americans are meeting the national PA recommendations. This decline in PA coincides with more and more colleges dropping their physical education requirements. In fact, according to a 2013 study from Oregon State, only 40% of colleges still require a physical education course as part of their degree programs. At Hope, it’s understood that promoting and instilling strong PA habits during these transformative years is critical.

Students celebrating during a volleyball game in class.

“As educators at a liberal arts college, we recognize the unique ability we have to influence our students’ lives. As such, we believe that Health Dynamics has the capability to increase not just our students’ knowledge, but also their enjoyment of exercise. This is critically important, as both knowledge and enjoyment of exercise are strong predictors of future PA behaviors and adherence.” says Dr. Brian Rider, current director of the health dynamics program at Hope.

In addition, Hope is a Christian college and strongly values its role of educating students within the context of the historic Christian faith. Physical and spiritual wellness, though maybe not demonstrably so, are closely related to one another. Dr. Peterson acknowledged this relationship when he launched the Health Dynamics program thirty-nine years ago:

“I feel one of a Christian’s responsibilities is to be a good steward of what’s been given. The body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, is as much a gift as the life that goes on in it. We’re responsible for the stewardship of that gift.”

According to Dr. Rider, the Health Dynamics program is utilizing new technology and undergoing some exciting changes.

  1. “We are in the process of creating a stronger online presence. Specifically, we are examining ways that we can transfer our current textbook online and create an interactive space where students are able to better engage with the material. Having our course content accessible online means that we can update materials on a regular basis to keep up with emerging research on nutrition and exercise.”
  2. Another exciting change is the use of technology to develop a better understanding of the students’ activity habits outside of class. For example, this fall, students from two Health Dynamics classes are wearing pedometers throughout the semester. Pedometers are devices traditionally used for measuring distance traveled via the number of steps an individual takes in a day. “Steps” are a metric used to assess how physically active an individual is and also to prescribe exercise. For example, aiming to hit “10,000 steps/day” is a popular recommendation and equates to traveling roughly 5 miles in a day (2000-2500 steps are in a mile). According to Dr. Rider, the pedometer data will be used in two ways: “One, students will review the activity data to better understand their own PA habits. Then, as a class, they’ll brainstorm possible strategies for increasing their daily PA (e.g. walking to class instead of driving, reducing the time spent indoors watching Netflix, etc.) Second, instructors will have an improved understanding of how our students’ PA changes over time. Ideally, we would like to see students’ PA increase during the semester. However, if this isn’t the case, then we as educators can strategize ways to improve our students’ overall enjoyment of PA in an effort to improve their daily PA.”
  3. Lastly, says Dr. Rider, “an exciting change we’re enacting this spring, is focusing some of our classes’ activity sessions around a sport and/or activity. Specifically, two Health Dynamics classes will have “theme” activity sessions. One will focus primarily on training for a 5k-road race and another will focus on training for an “adventure-style” race. While each class will continue to cover all core concepts of fitness (strength, cardio, flexibility) the activity sessions will be tailored towards these specific races. This will give students who might be more interested in training for a race or who prefer to run, the opportunity to choose a class that will focus more on their area of PA interest.”

Hope’s steadfast commitment to its students’ well-being is as strong today as it was when the college was founded.

This window located on the south west corner of Dimnent Chapel indicates the college’s long standing commitment to the development of the Body, Mind, Spirit. It was a gift from the Class of 1907.

Hope’s steadfast commitment to its students’ well-being is as strong today as it was when the college was founded.  It is our desire that every student sees the value in what they’ve learned both inside and outside of the Health Dynamics’ classroom and that this course helps them continue on (or in many cases begin) their own personal journey towards health, wellness, and positive life-long fitness habits. Health Dynamics has been, and will remain, a key component of Hope’s mission of challenging the mind, body and spirit.The kinesiology department and all of the Health Dynamic instructors understand the importance of such a class to Hope College and support / encourage good stewardship of our physical bodies.



Wanted: Health Care Experiencers

By Kirk Brumels and Maureen Dunn


It has been said that experience is the world’s greatest teacher and while that may be true, in order to gain knowledge from life’s lessons we need to be willing participants and eager students. That’s why we are writing. Applications for Kinesiology 212/214, the Health Advocacy and Community Care Coordination Course Sequence are being accepted until October 13, 2017. We are looking for 12 students who want to immerse themselves in health care at its most primary source and engage in discussions and experiences that will require an active engagement with the delivery of health care and associated experiences. These courses reflect a recent partnership created with Holland Hospital. Students taking these courses will be given the opportunity to study significant issues concerning health care aimed at developing practical approaches to supporting patients in the community.

The Health Advocacy and Community Care course sequence consists of 2 courses and applicants must be willing and able to complete both. Each course is 1 credit hour and must be taken in spring and fall semesters of the same calendar year. The 2018 spring semester course will use a seminar format, with students meeting on Monday evenings from 5-6:30 pm. Students will identify barriers to effective health care as well as strategies for enabling at-risk patients to play a more active role in promoting their own health and well-being. Interactive and thought-provoking group discussions based on class presentations and readings will help prepare students to act as health advocates in the community. Students will learn about population medicine; specific chronic diseases in the community setting; ethical dilemmas about the uninsured and underinsured; methods of improving compliance, and measuring outcomes to name a few topics.

Participation in the fall practicum requires a grade of B or higher in the spring seminar course. Students will visit patient’s homes 1-2 times weekly where they will provide hands-on application of knowledge to patient situations in the community setting, allowing students to work with a health care team of providers at a more in-depth level. In addition, students will meet once every 2 weeks from 7:15-8:15 am on Wednesdays to discuss experiences with the health care management team.

If you are interested, please use this link to access the application and additional information about the course.  Also, click here to view one student’s comments about what this experience taught him.


Meet the BodPod

By Kirk Brumels and Maureen Dunn, Professors of Kinesiology

No…the folks in the Kinesiology Department are not experimenting with time travel or paying homage to Jules Verne by attempting to reach 20,000 leagues, but what they are doing is still pretty cool.  Meet our newest addition…the BodPod!

This summer our Exercise Science faculty received training on how to use the BodPod.

The Kinesiology Department recently took ownership of a new air-displacement plethysmography machine, otherwise known as the BodPod. This futuristic looking piece of equipment estimates body composition (i.e. body fat percentage) by measuring body volume. The BodPod will be used extensively within the Exercise Science program curriculum, as well as in student-faculty collaborative research. Dr. Maureen Dunn, Professor of Kinesiology and Program Director for Exercise Science believes that having this type of technology at Hope and in the Exercise Science program gives our students “an advantage when it comes to understanding body composition testing and accuracy.”

…having this type of technology at Hope and in the Exercise Science program gives our students “an advantage when it comes to understanding body composition testing and accuracy.”

Common techniques in body composition assessment include skin fold and girth measurements, body density assessment, body mass index, bioelectrical impedance and determination of body volume. Options for volume measurements include hydrostatic/underwater weighing, which measures water displacement (Archimedes Principle), and as the BodPod’s technical name suggests, by using technology that measures air displacement. According to Dr. Brian Rider, assistant professor of kinesiology, “Hydrostatic (or underwater) weighing has been considered the gold standard for many years but it comes with some testing difficulties related to equipment and subject responsibilities. Having space for a large tank to allow for whole body submersion and dealing with individual subject’s fear of water or inability to completely exhale while submerged, make use of this measurement technique challenging.” The BodPod, however, has been proven to be an accurate way to determine body volume without some of the hassles associated with underwater weighing.

The BodPod, however, has been proven to be an accurate way to determine body volume without some of the hassles associated with underwater weighing.

While plethysmography, the third word of the BodPod’s scientific name, is something you might hear at the next Scripps National Spelling Bee, the first two help us understand how the device measures body volume. Air displacement and subsequently body volume is determined by having the subject sit comfortably inside the BodPod which consists of two chambers (test and reference) that share a common wall. The test chamber (where the subject sits), and the reference chamber of the BodPod, both contain a known volume of air when empty. During testing, the subject is asked to breath normally so that the lung volume can be accounted for and thus an accurate body volume determined. By sitting still and breathing in the test chamber, the subject displaces air that is measured via a diaphragm mounted in the common wall. This diaphragm oscillates during testing, leading to subtle changes in air volume within each chamber allowing strategically placed pressure sensors to precisely determine the actual volume of the person sitting in the test chamber. Using this information, body density is calculated and body composition can be determined.

So, next time you happen by the Exercise Science Laboratory and see students and faculty in and around the BodPod, don’t be alarmed… they’re not going to a galaxy far, far away. They are just taking advantage of the latest technology as part of their education and research. Just routine stuff here at Hope.


The Dow is Up!

By Kirk Brumels, Kinesiology Department Chair

If the title of this blog post made you excited about your stock portfolio, I apologize for misleading you. However, the truth is that things at the Dow Center are looking up, especially as it relates to student/faculty exercise and recreation opportunities.  If you haven’t stepped foot into the Dow since your Health Dynamics class, it’s time to plan a visit or better yet, reserve some space to work out with your friends.

We have several new machines: Leg extension/leg curl machine (pictured), a cable crossover machine (arriving any day!), 3 treadmills, 2 ellipticals and 2 stationary bikes.

After a summer and early fall filled with shopping, placing orders, and re-arranging, the Dow Center has some new equipment and space that will increase opportunities for participation in exercise or activities within the building. The 175,000 square-foot Dow Center was constructed in 1978 and contains courts for basketball, volleyball, racquetball, and wallyball as well as a 1/10th mile indoor track, a swimming pool, and cardio /weight rooms. In addition to its physical activity use by the campus community, the Dow also houses our Dance Department and their studios, academic classrooms, the Foundations for Fitness program, Hope College’s Student Health Center, and an athletic training room.


Hours of operation are as follows:

Monday-Thursday – 6:30a-Midnight (pool closes at 10p, opens at 8:30a on Wednesday)

Friday – 6:30a-11p (pool closes at 9p)

Saturday – 8:30a-11p (pool 11a-9p)

Sunday – 1-11p (pool closes at 9p)

Here’s the best part…rooms, courts and space for recreational activities can be reserved by anyone or any group on campus.

Here’s the best part…rooms, courts and space for recreational activities can be reserved by anyone or any group on campus. If you are planning more than 24 hours in advance, please reserve via For reservations within 24 hours, please call 616-395-7702 to check on availability.

“I’m confident students will see our commitment to their wellness.”   

Pictured is the 1000 square foot expansion to the weight room featuring free weights, plyometric jump boxes and much more.

Brian Morehouse, Director of the Dow Center and Head Women’s Basketball coach says, “After reading the student survey and speaking with the campus committee that was analyzing space usage, our goal was to improve our exercise areas in the Dow.  By expanding the weight room by 1000 square feet, adding new weight equipment, and increasing our cardio offerings by almost 20%, I’m confident students will see our commitment to their wellness.”   

Morehouse also wants to remind students that the Dow has added a group exercise area for student reservations. This 20’ X 40’ area is ideal for yoga, pilates, or any other group fitness activities.  Exercise mats are available for student usage in this area. Students simply need to call 395-7702 for a reservation on the day they plan to use it.

Along with the increased opportunities for recreation at the Dow Center, a new access system is up and running as well. This new system allows faculty, staff, students and community members to scan an ID card in order to gain entrance to the facility.  This is a key component in maintaining a safe and secure facility for our users.  

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Brian Morehouse at  Otherwise, round up your friends, head over to the Dow, see the exciting changes and get your sweat on!


Gaining a Global Perspective Through Sport

By Joey Williams ’18

I play lacrosse for Hope, and it’s my absolute joy to wear the orange-and-blue jersey. I also play for another team, and it gives me great pride and pleasure, too. I play team handball for Team USA, and I recently got the opportunity to do so in Croatia. Although my trip was not part of my official curriculum as a history and economics double major, it was an unique educational experience and could not have happened without the support of the Hope College community.

I grew up playing lacrosse in the Detroit area but in the summer of 2012, I came upon team handball while watching the London Olympics.  I really liked how fast paced the sport was, and it seemed like something that would help keep me in shape for lacrosse.  I did a little bit of research and discovered that the only handball club near me was located all the way in Chicago. Luckily, my family took a vacation to Chicago later that summer, and I found a way to practice with the club. That was my first time playing the sport, and I was hooked! I later formed a de facto club at my high school, Detroit Catholic Central, and continued to play casually with my friends.

In the fall of 2014 I heard about an open tryout for the US U21 national handball team in Chicago, naturally I signed up to attend. After a few fun but grueling days, I was put on the reserve team, which is a fancy way of saying I didn’t make the cut. A few months later though, the coach of that team emailed me asking if I’d be willing to play in a tournament in Sweden. Since then, I’ve practiced with that original team in Chicago every few months, and have practiced with another team in Chicago (which is coached by the U21 national team) about once a month, in addition to training with the Olympic team a couple of times.

In fact, for most of my coaches and fellow campers, I was the first American handball player they had ever seen.

Playing a modified version of tag with my buddies Niclas (Finland), Youssef (Egypt), and Rasmus (Denmark).

This summer, an opportunity to play in Croatia came about and there was no way I could turn it down. I attended the International Handball Goalkeeper Camp, an annual weeklong training camp in the coastal resort town of Omis. The camp’s reputation has attracted some of the best handball goalkeepers and coaches in the world. To draw a comparison with football, it would be like attending a quarterback camp with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Matthew Stafford in the Bahamas. I was lucky enough to have been accepted to the camp last summer, which made me the first American ever attended. In fact, for most of my coaches and fellow campers, I was the first American handball player they had ever seen.

Working on a reflex exercise at camp.

Over 90 goalkeepers attended the camp, and about 26 countries were represented. There were two training sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the evening. Each session was led by a coach and player, and would emphasize a different aspect of goalkeeping. Not only were the coaches and players world class, they were also very down to earth and willing to help. Borko Ristovski, the goalkeeper for Macedonia’s national team and Barcelona, would stay after every session and shoot penalty shots with younger goalies. Roland Mikler, the national team goalkeeper for Hungary and one of my favorite pro goalies, was at nearly every training session and gave specific feedback to the athletes. My training partner one day might be a professional goalkeeper from Egypt or a nearly 7 foot tall athlete from Finland.

Hearing these different viewpoints gave me a more nuanced understanding of how the U.S. is perceived by different people and gave me the chance to represent the United States to these people in a personal way.

Walking around town with my friend Eske, from Denmark, and Dan, from Spain.

I may not have many things in common with someone from Denmark or Croatia, but on the handball court, we were able to start a dialogue that carries into mealtime and rest time (luckily, almost everyone spoke fluent English). Most of the conversations would take place in the hotel’s pizza shop. I was amazed at how naturally a conversation about handball could transition into a profound dialogue about topics like the refugee crisis. Perspectives from Sweden, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Egypt, the Netherlands, and the United States would each be presented in these conversations, which were always civil and sometimes light-hearted. Hearing these different viewpoints gave me a more nuanced understanding of how the U.S. is perceived by different people and gave me the chance to represent the United States to these people in a personal way. While the technical aspects of the International Handball Goalkeeper Camp were immeasurably valuable, the opportunity to make friends from all over the world is what I cherish  about time in Croatia.

Hope College has provided me with both the support and education that allows me to get the most out of my experiences playing handball abroad. In the athletic department, I have found tremendous support as both a varsity lacrosse player and an aspiring handball player. Hope’s Head Lacrosse Coach Michael Schanhals has been particularly supportive of me both as an athlete and person. At great cost to the lacrosse team, he allowed me to travel to Paraguay during spring break (when our lacrosse team was in-season) so that I could compete for Team USA in the Pan-American Championships. He has also been one of my biggest advocates and biggest role models.

My unusual hobby has been a unique educational tool. Thanks to my education at Hope College, I am better able to reflect on world-wise experiences because of a world-wide sport.

Other coaches, like Becky Schmidt, Chad Carlson, and Melinda Larson, have been incredible mentors and have helped anchor me as both an athlete and a Christian. Academically, I have been blessed with very patient and helpful advisors in both the History and Economics Departments. Professors Marc Baer and Gloria Tseng have helped me improve as a historian and have fostered my love of history and writing. Professors Todd Steen and Stacy Jackson of the Economics Department have also been extremely accommodating and supportive of me, which I have always appreciated considering that I’m not the most talented economics student in the department. However, with their help, I have been able to refine my knowledge of economics so that I can view the world through an added lense.  Finally, I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from my fellow members of the Fraternal Society.

My unusual hobby has been a unique educational tool. Thanks to my education at Hope College, I am better able to reflect on world-wise experiences because of a world-wide sport.

Faith and Sports in Action in India and Japan

by Anders Northuis ’19

It’s safe to say the kids and I had a fun time at camp in Udalguri!

This summer I had the great opportunity to travel to both India and Japan, with the support of the Hope College’s athletic and kinesiology departments, to not only share my faith in Jesus Christ but also be immersed in new cultures through sports. In Udalguri, India, I helped run a sports camp for children. In Tokyo, I taught soccer. In each place, my fellow Hope College travelers and I were fortunate to meet a multitude of kind-hearted people with eye-opening and educational worldviews.

In each place, my fellow Hope College travelers and I were fortunate to meet a multitude of kind-hearted people with eye-opening and educational worldviews.

Pastor Samuel and me

In India, we worked alongside Pastor Samuel, who travels around the state of Assam preaching at various Christian churches and making in-home visits to their members. Throughout our time in Udalguri with the Boro people, he showed me what true passion for serving the Lord and seeking first His kingdom looks like. Pastor Samuel prayed with so much passion and energy. It was clear that he truly loved the Lord. Another aspect of Pastor Samuel that I admire is his desire to build up leaders from the community to serve others as the hands and feet of God. We met two of the many men and women whom he is mentoring as leaders across northern India. Bichan and Monoroma travelled with Pastor Samuel to be a part of his Gospel-spreading work in Udalguri that week. Because both of them speak English well, they struggle with deciding whether they should move to a big city to get a good paying job with a telemarketer company or staying in northern India with Pastor Samuel to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Together at the Great Buddha in Kamakura, Japan

In Japan, we toured Tokyo for two weeks as well as helped out at a local soccer camp run by Inter Milan and Technos College. This trip gave us the opportunity to see various temples and shrines, which are still culturally significant throughout Japan. Shun, a student from Technos, provided us a good deal of insight into the history and meaning behind everything we saw. His grandfather is the priest at the temple in his hometown. Buddhist traditions have been a part of his family’s life for generations.

The kindness of a complete stranger is something we can all learn from and strive to improve in our own everyday lives here in the America.

Everyone we met or encountered in Tokyo was extremely kind to us. Whether we were asking for directions, joking loudly on the trains, or taking random selfies with people by the Shibuya Crossing (the busiest crosswalk in the world), the Japanese people offered authentic hospitality constantly. So many people were willing to walk two miles with us even if we only needed him or her to walk one. The kindness of a complete stranger is something we can all learn from and strive to improve in our own everyday lives here in the America.

I bring these lessons back with me to Hope thankful that I was able to experience God in new ways this summer. I am majoring in social work and would like to find a job overseas after I graduate. These trips have reaffirmed my desire to work with a faith-based organization in another country in the future. I thank Hope College for these two unforgettable trips that allowed me to experience new cultures, see places I never imagined I would see, meet kind people I’m glad I met, and to become a more global citizen in the process.

Teaching a New Dog Old Tricks

by Dr. Kirk Brumels, professor and chair, Hope College Kinesiology Department

Providing unabashed love in exchange for food and shelter, my dog Dixie’s devotion and friendship is a commonplace canine occurrence. Yet, as an English Setter from hunting bloodlines, she is genetically wired for more. So when Dixie became part of our family two years ago, it became my responsibility to help her satisfy her natural desire to pursue grouse and woodcock within Michigan’s upland forests.

Learning how to train Dixie caused me focus a bit more on sequential development and guiding correction involved in teaching a new skill or concept. The beauty in this lesson is that it impacted my role as an educator.

Never having owned or trained an upland bird-hunting dog before, I discovered quickly that Dixie and I were newbies who needed to acquire some old tricks. Learning how to train Dixie caused me to focus a bit more on sequential development and guiding correction involved in teaching a new skill or concept. The beauty in this lesson is that it impacted my role as an educator.

Now, let me be the first to say that I don’t treat my students like I treat my dog as a belly rub, a scratch behind the ear, or cut-up hot dog pieces as performance rewards may be considered inappropriate! But I believe the principles of training a dog can be applied to my teaching…let me explain.

The basic idea behind hunting with a pointing dog like Dixie, is that her natural scenting ability is used to locate and “point” out desired game birds. Once found, she should hold still (point) in close proximity to the bird until I can arrive on scene. Opportunities are lost if Dixie gets too close or chases the birds. Dogs like Dixie must be trained how to respond when birds are found. She needed to be educated on how to apply specialized, skilled behavior with her natural instincts. Dixie instinctively knows that smelling and locating birds is fun; however, she needed to be shown that keeping such birds on the ground and in front of her provided a greater reward.

Teaching and educating often involves an explanation, a demonstration, or both. I remember being asked in a college education course to teach someone to tie shoelaces by either words or actions alone. It was difficult. Obviously, a better teaching strategy was to simultaneously explain and show the sequential tasks that would lead to the end result. I learned then and, now more recently through training Dixie, that becoming skilled at either explaining or demonstrating the sequential steps improves my teaching when I actually combine the two.

A better teaching strategy was to simultaneously explain and show the sequential tasks that would lead to the end result.

This concept of intentional and sequential instruction was amplified while training Dixie.  Verbal explanations were not an option during our training (dogs understand limited English!) so I was required to show, reinforce, and reward a series of behaviors built upon those that preceded it. Dr. Steven Smith, professor of kinesiology and head men’s soccer coach, explains this “chaining instruction” to his pedagogy students and players on a daily basis. The model, according to Smith, is to “teach the individual parts and then chain them together like links of a chain.” This form of instruction links one activity or task to another until an end goal is reached, and it was a critical component of Dixie’s training program.

Likewise, with students whom we can extensively speak to, it is important for our verbal explanations to be progressive in nature. Smith likens this spoken instruction to motor skill development where “there are mature and immature behaviors or understanding and it is our job as educators to seek ways of moving our students step by step through the maturational and instructional process.”

Whether tying shoes, hunting upland game, or teaching skills and concepts, ultimate success relies on breaking down the end goal into sequential steps. We must start at the beginning and progress toward a goal. But, it does not end there. We cannot simply “get the ball rolling” and hope it ends up where we want it. We must also provide continued correction and reinforcement along the way.

That brings me to my second point.

In addition to “chaining instruction,” the value of positive reinforcement became exceedingly clear during Dixie’s training process. The extrinsic rewards of effusive praise or food treats are a critical component of training a dog in the early stages, but eventually they are replaced by obedience to expectation. The satisfaction of a job well done eventually becomes the intrinsic reward.

Laszlo Block of Google in his book titled Work Rules! states that “simple practice, without feedback and experimentation, is insufficient” when it comes to skill acquisition. Referring to the work of K. Anders Ericsson, a Florida State University professor of psychology, Laszlo mentions that in order to gain mastery, an individual must break down the desired goal into “tiny actions” and then “repeat them relentlessly” with “immediate feedback, correction, and experimentation.”

As we worked on performing desired skills, certain undesired responses inevitably happened. These moments of correction were necessary and expected, but they were not where emphasis was placed.

Correcting aberrant behavior and reinforcing appropriate actions were both critical for teaching Dixie the desired skills and behaviors that make a successful bird-dog. It all seemed more effective, though, when I positively reinforced a desired behavior than when I attempted to correct a negative one. As we worked on performing desired skills, certain undesired responses inevitably happened. These moments of correction were necessary and expected, but they were not where emphasis was placed. The focus was our desired end goal and the corrections served only as a way to redirect momentum toward positive responses that could be rewarded. By not over-reacting to deviant behavior, but instead by re-directing expectations and rewards toward positive behavior, I reduced the requirement for and time spent on correction and “constructive criticism.”

What this old dog learned is not necessarily new, but thanks to Dixie, I have a new appreciation for these old tricks. I can only hope that through applying these lessons to my responsibilities as an educator, I equal Dixie’s ability to find birds.