Faculty Interview: Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray

Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray

One of the best parts of your student experience at Hope College will be the faculty-student relationships you create with your professors. Both Cam and Adriana have interviewed one professor who has guided and shaped their time at Hope. Hear from Adriana’s professor, Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray, Professor of Biology, about what makes Hope College such a special place.

What makes Hope unique to you?

Well, that the emphasis on experiential learning is not just “lip service,” it’s real.  If you want to get involved in an experiential way academically, there is no shortage of opportunities.  I wish more students would do their “extracurricular” stuff in the context of their academics (yes, things like student research, but lots of other possibilities too), because in the long run, that’s what’s going to pay off the most when you go looking for a job.  The strong community atmosphere in a very thriving larger community setting in West Michigan also makes Hope stand out.  For a person raising her family here, if you want to be involved in the community, there is no shortage of opportunities to do so.

I’d also like to mention something most people wouldn’t think about – the Hope College Nature Preserve is exceptionally unique…..on the entire planet.  It is a chunk of forest just inland from the largest freshwater dune system on the entire planet.  The forest there is unlike any other, and it is as pristine as any place you will ever find in the Midwest; four seasons of beautiful things to learn about! Most liberal arts colleges (and even big universities) don’t have anything this gorgeous to brag about, but even if they do have a natural area, it is usually quite developed and may have high human traffic.  Ours is peaceful and serene.  Let me know if you would like to visit sometime. 

Why is a liberal arts education important? 

First and foremost, because it’s how you come to know the human condition, and not just the one that you were raised in.  If I were queen of the planet, I would require everyone to live a year in a different country (or in a really different part of our own country), something I consider part of any complete liberal arts education.  Doing so changed my own outlook on my place in the world, and how others see the actions of the country I live in.  It was without doubt the best part of my own liberal education.  There are practical reasons such as the changing job market – nothing can substitute for the flexibility that being broadly educated will give you. 

But on top of all of this, liberal arts trains you to learn how to learn in very different ways – different forms of inquiry, expression, and not all of them will be at your best comfort level.  Just like the real world – whatever your career is- it isn’t going to always be your best comfort level.  You always need to adapt and be open and eager to learning how to do things differently.  The liberal arts will demand this of you. 

If you insist on just doing stuff the old way, for example always picking things that were comfortable for you that you know you can get good grades in, then you’ll have a much tougher time than if you recognize that you will need to intentionally adapt your strategies for learning to serve you well. Being the best you can be (not just the same old of what you used to be) requires adaptation and adaptation is a very active thing; it’s not passive – it doesn’t “just happen.”  Your success later on is not dependent on whether you can remember a particular reaction in the Kreb’s cycle but whether you can actively adapt your learning strategies for the task at hand.   

How has Hope allowed you to connect more with students?

In many, many ways both in and out of the classroom. Some of my most memorable experiences connecting with students have been on “trips” such as May Terms where we live, eat, breathe, and learn together 24/7.  More than anything, I love teaching outside, and so being able to work with students on extended field trips and/or May Terms lets me do that in a big way. 

2019 Ecology of Northern Tanzania and the Serengeti May Term
Pictured wearing traditional attire of the Iraqw Tribe

Many of my courses over the years have included camping trips, weekend getaways at field stations, and field labs instead of indoor labs.  I have also been encouraged to create field-based courses, both for science majors and for other majors (e.g. GEMS courses).  GEMS 204 (Regional Flora and Fauna) is one of my favorite courses to teach because it is all field trips with my students to local places where we are learning about the creatures we share the “neighborhood” with — it’s been a great course to learn about what neighborhoods my students have come from, and to hear about  their trials and tribulations as they integrate with the Hope community during their first semester here.

What are you most looking forward to in the 2020-2021 school year? 

Actually, I’m on sabbatical leave during the 2020-2021 school year and so I will be very much missing teaching this next year.  In fact, I’ve been thinking alot about how the pandemic response and the new ways of teaching would have been really good and exciting for ME to be forced into adapting this next year, and I will be mostly missing out on that!  However, I am eager to do lots of writing (to write up projects my students and I have been working on the last few years for publication in scientific journals), and I am working to develop educational activities for the city and campus tree project that dovetail with the tree app we’ve been developing with the computer science department.

This involves collaborating with a former student who is now director of a local nature center. I will be continuing research on hemlock woolly adelgids in the Hope College Nature Preserve, and some other forest-related projects. I am additionally collaborating with a former student who is studying the germination success of seeds that have been ingested by wolves.  

FAQ Friday Recap 7/31

Did you miss FAQ Friday last week? No worries! We have our answers to your questions here!

Campus Life

Will the weight room be open? Until the governor allows fitness centers to be open, the Dow and DeVos are not allowed to be open. We do not know when that will be, but as soon as it’s allowed, the Dow will have policies and protocols in place to allow the facilities to be open. Likely phased in. 

What will dining be like with social distancing? It will be different. They have to follow the restaurant limits and guidelines set forth by the state and the CDC. There will be no self-service stations. You will have to wear a mask standing in line outside the dining hall and inside the dining hall. Depending on capacity limits, you may get to eat your meals outside! More information directly from the dining hall staff is in the Navigating your Wellness video from July 7.

Will they have the Meijer shuttle this year? Yes! We are not sure which day it will run, but it will be available to you!

Financial Aid 

Are we going to get any more info about the financial side of Hope? You can check out the business services website or email business services with your specific questions! They are super helpful! They can help you find a payment plan that works for you and your family to help you be a successful student.


Are we going to be able to study in other spots that are not our dorms?Yes, you can always study outside in the Pine Grove or at any of the picnic tables around campus (though if you use them, you will be expected to clean them before and after!). There will also be limited seating in the common spaces for students to use when they study (remember to clean up after!). You can also go to the coffee shops around campus or off-campus to study as well!. My favorite study spots include the rocking chairs outside of campus ministries and LJs!

Will we have to wear masks in class? Yes, you will be required to wear masks in any areas where you will be with people outside of your living cohort. This includes classrooms, campus buildings, and any hallways or walkways where you will pass people shoulder to shoulder.

Where can we get textbooks that are cheaper? Hope bookstore has a really great price comparison website that you can use. They compare prices at the bookstore and other third party sites. Also, check Amazon! Be sure to pre-order your books before the school year starts for a safe, socially-distanced delivery

Residential Living 

Will we need special tools/materials to raise our bed? Sometimes! It is helpful to bring a rubber mallet, a level, and a strong person to help loft your bed. It is not always necessary to use these, but sometimes beds can be finicky. And, just some inside info, you cannot loft your beds in certain residence halls. For instance, in Dykstra, you cannot loft your bed, however you can bunk the beds.  

Can you loft your bed in Phelps? Yes!

Do we have physical keys to get into our dorm rooms? Depends on the residence hall! Dykstra, Wyckoff, Scott, and Lichty are a few examples of residence halls with keys. Phelps has a swipe card (like a hotel). Kollen has a keypad!

Assessing Academic Resources Recording 7/28

Thank you for those who joined in the livestream on Tuesday evening to learn more about accessing academic resources. If you were unable to join, check out the video below to catch up on what you missed.

Hear from the Academic Success Center about tutoring opportunities and peer partnership learning and Disability and Accessibility Resources about how they can help you make sure you have the accommodations you need to be a successful student. You can also hear from the Klooster Center for Excellence in Writing for ways to get connected with an editor and how they can help you brainstorm ideas for papers and from a librarian who will talk about the resources in the library and your faculty librarian.

Join us next Tuesday and Thursday for our last two livestream sessions before Orientation begins!

Building a Greater Hope Community – Tuesday, August 4 at 7 pm EDTBuilding a Greater Hope Community. Through this virtual gathering you will hear from President Scogin, Vanessa Greene, our Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and two rising seniors: Sylvia Rodriguez and Taylor Calloway. As always, please bring your questions.

Last Minute Introductions and Q&A – Thursday, August 6 at 7 pm EDT Before you arrive on campus, there are a few more people we want you to meet! Please join us on Thursday, August 6 at 7 pm to meet our Dean of Students, Student Congress President, and Orientation Directors. They will provide important reminders and answers for all of your lingering questions.

Words of Wisdom: On Succeeding Academically

Two seniors give some great advice on how to succeed academically at Hope! Read below to see their suggestions!

Drew is a rising senior from Westfield, Indiana.  Drew is studying Economics and Business, and plans to go on to work in private banking.  Outside of the classroom, he is involved with Greek life, the AEI Executive Council, Baker Scholars, and is on the cross country and track team. Drew’s favorite thing about Hope is the people that make the community so special.

The adjustment to college academics is one of the hardest parts of your first year.  The biggest challenge for me was leaving a well-structured high school routine where we were in the classroom for most of the day and then had small amounts of homework.  College flips that schedule where far less of your time is actually in the classroom and the rest of your day is available to do what you please. The challenge in this is learning to manage time responsibly to get your work done while still having time to enjoy all the other things going on on campus.

 It is important to take your academics seriously, but it is also critical to take advantage of the social and extracurricular activities at Hope. My tips are to find friends to study with that hold you accountable and keep the grind enjoyable as well as to take advantage of all the academic resources that Hope has to offer. Hope students and faculty are always willing to help and will be there for you to make sure your college experience is fun and formative.

Shelby Harper is a rising senior from Cincinnati, Ohio majoring in engineering with an emphasis in electrical engineering and a minor in mathematics. She has been involved in residential life as an RA for two years, works as a TA in the engineering department, and is a tutor for the Academic Success Center (ASC). She has two cats at home, plays the ukulele, and is very passionate about coffee. Shelby is spending the Fall 2020 semester in Athens, Greece before graduating in December of 2020. Shelby hopes to go to graduate school to get a PhD in electrical engineering and work as a professor someday.

Starting your first college classes is incredibly daunting. They are certainly different from high school classes, but there are many things you can do to make  it feel more manageable. Although not procrastinating is much easier said than done when there’s so much to get involved in at Hope, it truly does make your academic life much easier!

Some wisdom I received once is to treat college like a full-time job. Again, this is easier said than done, but working from 9 to 5 (yes, that includes getting up early if you don’t have morning classes) will offer you so much more free time to be with people and to do the things you enjoy! This is especially applicable at Hope where there are so many amazing things to do socially.

Along with all the social activities Hope offers, there are also many academic resources in place to help you succeed in your classes. Take advantage of help sessions if they’re available. These are run by teaching assistants who have previously taken the class and are there for homework help and questions. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask professors for help! My professors have been some of the most incredible people I have gotten to know, and they have so much wisdom to share about things from a career path in your field of study to even life in general.

Be willing to invest in your schoolwork and feel thankful for the opportunity to work toward something you love! Everyone at Hope wants you to succeed and you are so capable!

Words of Wisdom: On Getting Involved

For this topic, we have one sophomore (someone who just finished her freshmen year) and senior (someone who knows the ins and outs of ways to get involved at Hope). Read their pieces of advice for how to get involved at Hope and make your Hope experience your own!

Lizzy Bassett is one of the Sophomore Class Reps on Student Congress and a Dykstra Hall RA. She is pursuing a degree in Communication and Global Studies. When she’s not doing schoolwork, you can always find Lizzy talking too loud and attending campus events, such as Coffeehouse. One of Lizzy’s favorite activities freshman year was Nykerk Oration, and she hopes you to audition for it too!

When entering college, you might have heard people tell you to “say yes to everything,” or “try as many things as possible.” While these sentiments are good and true, they are only part of the story. You can be taught how to say “yes” to everything, but you can’t be taught how to be passionate.

However, you might find your passions by saying yes to different opportunities, and when that happens, lean into it. You’ll find that there may be a time when one of the activities you joined for fun somehow becomes more important and meaningful than just a club or campus tradition. Lean into it.  Sometimes, your involvement will hand you a sense of responsibility for something larger than yourself. When this happens, it’s up to you whether or not you seize the opportunity and run with it. In Roald Dahl’s book, Matilda, five-year-old Matilda says, “Never do anything by halves if you want to get away with it. Be outrageous. Go the whole hog.” Allow this to be your license to take risks. Be so bold that the impact that you create is just as deep as the impact your passion has on you. New students, for what it’s worth, lean into it. Go the whole hog.

Jared Lowe is entering his senior year at Hope. He is studying Business and Chemistry, and hopes to work in healthcare administration after college. He is a worship team leader for the Chapel band, a high jumper for the Track & Field team, and a Young Life leader. His favorite chick flick is The Proposal, and his favorite Yankee candle scent is Balsam and Cedar.

Take care of yourself first semester! Don’t stress too much about your schoolwork, but be diligent. Hope offers so much more than just an education. You can study your passion in school, but still pursue hobbies and other passions outside of the classroom. It’s all about balance.

 Take guitar lessons so you can learn that song you’ve always wanted to play. Join a bible study to find a great community and participate in intentional conversations. Play intramural badminton with that girl or guy down the hall that you inevitably have a crush on. I can tell you from experience that your four years here will feel like four weeks, so think very deeply about the impact you want to make and the spiritual and personal growth that you want to experience during your time here!

Words of Wisdom: On Making Friends

Two junior women give some advice to new students about how to make friends at Hope College!

Hey! I’m Samantha Choy and I am going to be a junior this fall! I’m studying music and ministry and I’m involved in Nykerk, intramurals, and the worship team. 

Even though Hope is on the smaller side compared to big state schools, making friends can still be difficult. It’s important to branch out and get to know people who are different from you because you can learn so much from them, and they may surprise you! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone even if you don’t know them very well. People at Hope LOVE meeting up at LJ’s to grab a cup of coffee and to sit down for a chat. And can I let you in on a little secret? Every other new student is just as eager as you are to make friends. So, seriously, don’t be afraid to send that text and make plans to hang out.

 Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like you’ve found your ‘people’ right away or even in the first year! I made great friends during my freshman year, people who I still love dearly today, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year that I met some of my best friends! So keep trying! It may be hard, but good things don’t always come easy. If you make an effort and are authentic, you’ll meet the right people at the right times.

Hi everyone! My name is Caryn Dannah and I a student at Hope College pursuing a degree in Religion with a Christian History and Theology focus. On top of being a student at Hope College, I am also a resident assistant, volunteer services committee member, secretary for Hope Catholics club, and a Phelps Scholar alumni. I also have also dedicated a lot of my time to volunteering and mission trips because I have a passion for serving people around me.

I believe that the best way to make friends at Hope is to get involved shortly after you arrive. Hope College is full of so many communities that have the opportunity to come together and overlap in such unique ways. This could be in your residence hall, campus traditions, the Phelps Scholars Program, athletics, bible study, music ensembles, theatre, academic clubs, or more! Getting involved in these different areas of campus will allow you to discover so much more along the way, and often include fun activities such as beach trips or doughnut runs.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to try something new! I joined so many different clubs during my first year and it was amazing getting to know so many different kinds of people. Putting yourself out there will contribute to your college experience in an incredible way!

Words of Wisdom: On Getting Started

Two rising sophomores provide some advice for new students by drawing from the beginning of their freshmen year experience:

My name is Ka’niya Houston. I am a rising sophomore, and I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. While on campus, you can find me on Hope’s radio station, the Phelps Scholars Program, Chapel, or volunteering at Third Reform Church. I love music – any genre! You can also find me at Coffeehouse either on stage or in the crowd cheering my heart out for my friends and strangers. Hope is my home away from home!

You’ve finally made it! You have been preparing for this moment: you’ve worked, saved, shopped, and now you’re so close to moving in. The first week on campus will probably feel a little overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of certain opportunities. Get to know your OA leaders and other students in your group, check out different clubs at the activity fair, or say “hey hey” to random people in your residence hall!

 One thing I encourage you to do is to let go of all the expectations you have. College will be your experience YOURS, no one else’s. This first year is not about being perfect.  With this in mind, allow yourself to be free and independent, and enjoy this time without all that pressure! College truly is a new chapter in your life, and Hope gives you the tools and resources to be the person you want to be! 

This year is all about being your true, imperfect self, while still learning more about your passions and interests. Whether you are a student that confidently knows what they want and what they are here for, is unsure about their place, or is motivated but still doesn’t know their purpose, DO NOT WORRY; Hope is here for you! You don’t have to be the biggest go-getter in the world, but I truly encourage you to have the best first year in the way YOU see fit!

My name is Ethan Getchell and I am a Sophomore at Hope College. I am from Portland, MI and I am intending to major in Business and Communications. I lived in Durfee Hall freshman year and am now the Social Media Chair for Student Congress. I also do photography and social media for the Business Club and am a Core Member of the Student Activities Committee. In my free time I make videos for Hope Admissions as a Student Influencer, hangout with my brothers in the Arcadian Fraternity, and during the wintertime, join the Ski Club for exciting trips.

In high school, it was easy for me to be involved, and I played three sports, represented on student congress, led youth groups and attended social events. When I started at Hope, the hardest part was budgeting my time and not spreading myself too thin. I quickly learned the difference between high school and college, particularly in the weight of each group Hope has to offer. 

Walking through the activities fair, it was easy for me to write my name down for every club, and this is encouraged by students and staff. However, what I needed to learn earlier is that writing my name down does not tie me into that group. I felt obligated to fill up every waking moment with Hope related activities, sometimes abandoning sleep to do so. My advice, at least starting off, is to not bite off more than you can chew. 

This is a new environment, and no matter how smooth of a transition you have, the stresses, both good and bad, will affect you. Remember to look after yourself and to save time for prayer, meditation, and mental health restoration before filling your evenings with one thing after another. Definitely get involved, but be mindful. Hope has so much to offer, and you have time to try it all, but you don’t have to do it all at once!

FAQ Friday Re-Cap 7/24

We have another FAQ Friday ReCap for you! It’s hard to believe we only have two more weeks until Orientation begins… We can’t wait for you to arrive!

Before we get to the answers to your questions, though, we thought we would provide the link to the Student and Family Meeting from July 23. President Scogin, Provost Short-Thompson, a few of the COVID-19 Steering Committee members, as well as a bunch of campus leaders talk about what Hope will look like in the fall. This includes Hope’s plan for testing students and staff, how classes will work in-person and online, and more information about living cohorts from Res Life. We highly encourage you to watch this because our campus leaders answer so many great questions!

You can also go to hope.edu/coronavirus to ask and get answered any questions you may have!

Alright, let’s get back to FAQ Friday!


What things will you have for people moving in early? Your RAs and living cohort friends will be available to hang out with and such. We also encourage you to explore downtown, walk around campus, get prepared for school to begin (ie. pick-up your school books from the bookstore). Orientation will also host some evening events that are centered around becoming familiar with Hope culture.

I’m coming in the spring enrollment. Will there be another orientation for the Spring enrollment? January orientation!

Campus Life

For meal plans, is it a total of 15 meals for the week or a certain amount per day? The meal plans are your meals per week, and there is not a limit to meal swipes per day.

I have classes that start 10 minutes apart! How does that work?? It only takes 7 minutes to get across campus, so this shouldn’t be a problem! YOu can talk to your professor if you’re still nervous about arriving late, though, and they are usually understanding. Otherwise, riding your bike to class can make for a speedier commute.

Will chapels still happen? And if so, what will it be like? Hope just announced on Thursday that Chapels will be offered online at the normal times (MWF at 10:30am). If you want some examples of what this could look like, please check out the virtual chapels from last spring. This will be fun because chapels will be available at any time now!


Will most of the extracurriculars still happen because of COVID? Yes! They just may look a bit different. Student groups will have to abide by the same guidelines as the rest of campus, so we may see some virtual events and smaller events throughout the year.

What are intramurals sports like? Teams will compete at night and the games last less than an hour. You can have a team of up to 12 people and you can choose to compete in the more or less competitive leagues. Keep an eye on your email for the “captain’s meetings” at the beginning of each season. This is how you will be able to form a team for whichever sport you would like to play!

Where is the best spot to go hammocking? On-campus, I like the cluster of trees outside of Voorhees or anywhere in the Pine Grove. Off-campus, I like to go to Tunnel Park at the top of the hill! There are so many great, woody areas around campus that you’ll d=find the spot that you prefer!

How can a student get to the beach without a car? You can go with friends in their cars! The beach is only 5 miles from Hope, so you can totally run or bike there as well. 

Understanding Your Classes Recording (7/21)

We have another event recording for you and this one is all about your classes at Hope! Watch this to hear from our Associate Registrar, our expert on how classrooms will look amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and our Senior Academic and Career Advisor at the Boerigter Center for Calling and Career.

You should have received your class schedule last week, so check your Hope email if you haven’t had a chance to see that yet.

And, remember that you have a form you have to submit to your academic advisor due on Friday, July 24 as well as a StrengthsQuest Assessment through the Boerigter Center to complete by Friday as well.

As always, if you have any questions, please email orientation@hope.edu and keep checking your Hope email for our next “Something Every Tuesday”.

From One 2020 Senior to Another

In this photo, my friend Abby (right with mortarboard) and I (left in the red beret and gown) sit in on our last exam period via Zoom. Can you tell it was for our Art Major capstone class?

A few months ago, I finished my college experience curled up in a chair, wearing my graduation gown like a housecoat, staring at my laptop in disbelief. The Zoom window of my final exam meeting had just closed. Was I really done? Reaching the milestone of graduation in a pandemic is a ridiculous experience. I can’t even pretend to offer any rationalization or advice for the problems this time has created for you. I can only bring empathy for your experiences. Or, perhaps, more importantly, your missed experiences. Wow, do I know what it’s like to miss those last big moments. The last gatherings, the long-awaited traditions, saying goodbye to treasured professors and valued friends, and don’t even get me started on graduation. As a first-generation college student, I grieve for that big celebration of my years of hard work. 

There’s more, though, than missing the things that had filled you with anticipatory excitement for years. There’s the addition. There’s an addition of uncertainty in this new world we have to step into. How are we supposed to make this transition in a reality that is simply defined by chaos? Post-graduation is supposed to be a time of exploration, learning, and growing. But how do we do that with the addition of distance? Of isolation? Of fear?

This is the grief and anxiety that has filled my past few months. Maybe it sounds familiar. Maybe you feel more, maybe you feel different. But I don’t want to talk about this grief and anxiety. Let me tell you, I’m over it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a degree in Psychology. I know how important proper grieving is, how crucial it is to process these big, pressing emotions. But y’all. I’m so tired. 

Can we talk about “I’m sorry” fatigue? Everywhere I seem to turn, I’m being offered condolences for my situation. My doctor, my grandma, a car salesman, a couple from church, they all want to say, “I’m sorry you had to end your senior year this way.” Usually my heart swells at any attempt at empathy. It’s so important to be able to recognize the pain of other people’s experiences, to reach out and acknowledge that. Frankly, though, I’m tired of this particular pain being acknowledged. 

I see a future in which we are more creative, more flexible, more empathic, more RESILIENT because of this time.

There’s a phrase I used to use in the critiques I did in my art classes when I wanted to politely say I didn’t like something. I mean, it wasn’t that adding fake hair to the sculpture was the wrong choice, it’s just that, “I wish I was seeing something else.” When people say they’re sorry about my experiences, I wish I was hearing something else.

I want to hear, “I’m excited for whatever you can do next.” I’m ready for, “How can I support you as you try to move forward?”  Because friends, surprisingly enough, I have Hope. I have Hope for our future. I see a future in which we are more creative, more flexible, more empathic, more RESILIENT because of this time. I have Hope that even as our present looks different than we had ever pictured, we can still do. There is still experience to gain. We still have more to learn about ourselves. We will strive to see our world get better, balancing our grief in one hand and our Hope in another. Because a time of change, really a time of crisis, doesn’t have to mean a time of hopelessness for us.

A few weeks ago I received a flat package in the mail with DO NOT BEND stricken across the front. Inside, behind a plain sheet of cardboard, was my diploma. Despite how different, how utterly wrong the end to my senior year seemed, I still accomplished what I came to do. I did all of the work. I persevered. We persevered. And, friends, I’m excited for whatever we can do next. 

Hannah Bugg graduated from Hope in 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Studio Art. She currently works as a Resident Director at Hope, and can be found around campus talking to the squirrels probably with an LJ’s coffee in her hand.