Anchor Op-Ed: Doing the Hard Things

This piece was published in Hope College’s Student Newspaper, The Anchor. You can find the original post HERE.

We are now a few weeks into our Fall semester, and one thing has become abundantly clear to all of us: this is hard! I miss gathering together in person. I miss chapel; I miss sporting events; I miss the Phelps ice cream machine! We have signed up for a difficult semester. 

The question is: why did we choose this? Why was the Hope College staff and faculty motivated to work long hours all summer—what is usually a time of rest—to make it possible for you to come back? Why did you, students, overwhelmingly want to be back on campus, even though you knew it would be different? And why are we, as a community, committed to doing hard, uncomfortable things for the sake of staying on-campus together? 

Here are some of my reasons for choosing to do this hard thing, and why I think it will be worth it.

The first is that you will build relationships. Now this might sound counterintuitive: isn’t it harder than ever to make friends? But think of it this way: right now, we are living through an era that will define this century and will define your generation. For the rest of your time in college, for the next 10 years, at your 20 or even 50 year college reunion, you will remember and be talking about this semester. For the rest of your life, you’ll be saying things like, “I went to college during COVID,” or, “Remember when we met, you were wearing that mask?” For some of you, this will be your love story: “The first thing I noticed was her lovely eyes… because that was all I could see underneath her mask.” Shared experience is rich soil for relationships. As we live in this era together, you will make memories and friends that will last a lifetime. 

Second, we want you here even though it is hard because we believe you have a lot to contribute. You have already proven your grit and resilience. You have dealt with an abrupt pivot to online classes, the disappointment of so many cancelled sports games, concerts, and events and you’re adapting to the current guidelines like champions. You are learning a lot. You are supporting each other. We know that you have a lot to contribute, and therefore you will make an impact here at Hope—and beyond! 

Shared experience is rich soil for relationships. As we live in this era together, you will make memories and friends that will last a lifetime. 

Finally, and more broadly, we have chosen to do a hard thing this semester because we believe the world needs what we have here. The world is full of despair! It seems like we can’t go a day without another tragedy or hardship—from acts of police brutality to struggles with mental health—rearing its ugly head in the news or in our personal lives. The world needs hope! There is no better time to shape leaders to go out into the world as problem solvers and agents of hope. That’s you, and we are excited and determined to help equip you with what you need to spread hope to the world. 

Yes, this Fall is going to be hard. There are lots of things we don’t like. And yet, as we yearn for this season to be over, we should also look for the opportunities that exist in the here and now. That is a profoundly Biblical mindset. As Christians, we yearn for God’s redemption of the world, but we don’t spend our whole lives just yearning for heaven! We look for joy in the midst of current suffering and keep our eyes set on the reasons whywe persevere. That’s a mindset of hope. 

“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” 

James 1:2-4, TPT

Thank you, Hope College, for your endurance. You’re an inspiration. 

Letter to Alumni: Hope Ready

Dear Hope Alumni,

This week, we began our 159th academic year at Hope College. Throughout our history, we have opened in the midst of the Civil War, the World Wars, the Great Depression, and the Great Recession. We have opened in the midst of many challenging periods, but we’ve never begun a school year quite like this. 

Our faculty and staff have worked all summer long to prepare for opening in the midst of these unusual circumstances. As our students adjust to college life with masks and distancing, we wanted to share some of our preparation for safe and productive in-person instruction.

First, we made the decision over the summer to adjust our fall calendar.  Classes began on August 17th, two weeks earlier than originally planned, and our semester will conclude on Tuesday, November 24th (before Thanksgiving).  We also changed Fall Break to be two separate, midweek days off rather than the typical four day weekend.  These changes will limit movement to and from campus, helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  

In order to make sure that all our students — including those who will not be able to be on campus in the fall — stay on schedule for their planned graduation date, Hope’s course schedule for the fall semester includes in-person, hybrid and online classes. Hybrid courses feature a blend of in-person and online components.

In addition, the college has created a comprehensive, three-component COVID-19 testing plan specifically tailored to the Hope community and informed by the expertise of public health officials and our own faculty experts.

There is no better place to cultivate and spread hope through the world than a college for which true, biblical hope is a foundational identity.

Before arriving on campus, every student and employee was tested for COVID-19, most through a pre-arrival kit sent to their home. We administered a total of 3,979 COVID-19 tests, and of those, 99.04% were negative. Our 0.96% positive rate is significantly lower than the current national positive rate of 6.6% and the state positive rate of 2.5%.  A vast majority of the 38 positive cases were identified through the pre-arrival kit and are quarantining at home, and for the few that are on campus, we are prepared with robust isolation and quarantine housing protocols.

Second, we will test 1% of the students every weekday, in a strategy developed by Dr. Ben Kopek, an associate professor of biology with expertise in virology.  The sample size reflects a commitment to conducting successful surveillance while saving enough tests for clinical care of individuals.

Third, we will conduct wastewater testing to determine if the virus is present in specific residential zones on campus.  This innovative project is being led by faculty members Dr. Aaron Best, Dr. Brent Krueger and Dr. Mike Pikaart, who have long led water-quality research at Hope.  If the levels of the virus rise in a particular zone, we will conduct follow-up testing of residents. This will allow us to stay on top of, and mitigate the risk of, a potential outbreak.

While we have confidence in our testing plan, we realize that we’ll likely have cases on our campus this semester. We are prepared to respond, with testing available as soon as any student recognizes symptoms of COVID-19, and with quarantine space available for those who test positive.

We’re also taking many of the sorts of steps that you might expect.  For example, we’re promoting physical distancing by spacing desks in all classrooms six feet apart.  On campus, we’re all to wear masks, complete a daily screening form, and regularly sanitize our hands and spaces.

We’re undoubtedly signing up for a harder semester than if we continued the fully remote instruction that we implemented in March, but we see four compelling reasons for prioritizing in-person instruction.

First, our students want to be back! The vast majority (over 90%) want to be on campus.

Second, an in-person education, with students living and learning together, is the best education.  It’s why Hope has been committed to being a residential liberal arts college for more than 160 years.  That said, remote learning isn’t a poor substitute when done the Hope way.  We’ve been offering courses online since 1999 and infuse them with the same individual attention and character that we provide in person.

Third, an in-person experience is more equitable. Some students have good learning environments in their homes, while others do not. 

Finally, while this may be counterintuitive, we believe bringing students on campus is actually safer and more responsible. Since a large percentage will be living in the region regardless of the teaching modality, it’s better to have them on campus participating in our testing and monitoring programs.

As an institution of higher learning, this is an unparalleled opportunity for teaching moments! It is an opportunity for innovation, as we explore new modalities of teaching and think deeply about the future of learning. It’s also an opportunity for growth. As we are shaken out of old ways of thinking, we can look at the world with new eyes. 

Our students and faculty are happy to be back on campus, even though many things will be different this semester.  For example, fall sports have been postponed to the spring and chapel will be streamed remotely.   There are disappointments, but the spirit of our school is not to dwell on despair.  Rather we are a place that faces challenges with hope.

There is no better place to cultivate and spread hope through the world than a college for which true, biblical hope is a foundational identity.

We are going to learn a lot this semester.  And we’ll make some memories together too.

Spera in Deo!

Matthew A. Scogin

Sentinel Op-Ed: Committed to Safe In-Person Start

This piece was published in the Holland Sentinel. View the original post HERE.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions around the country have wrestled with how best to provide students with the outstanding education that they deserve and assure the safest possible environment. We here at Hope care not only for the campus community but our cherished hometown of Holland. We’re writing to you, neighbor to neighbor, to share some of our thinking and preparation for in-person instruction, including an innovative approach to COVID-19 testing developed by our very own faculty experts, as we approach the start of classes on Aug. 17.

The college has created a comprehensive, three-component testing plan specifically tailored to the Hope community and informed by the expertise of public health officials and our own faculty and staff.

Our goal is to start the academic year with zero cases of COVID-19 on campus. Every student and employee coming to campus is being tested for COVID-19 through a pre-arrival kit sent to their home. They complete it with online supervision, send it to a laboratory and then quarantine at home for two weeks if they test positive.

Second, we will test 1 percent of the students every weekday, in a strategy developed by Dr. Ben Kopek, an associate professor of biology with expertise in virology. The sample size reflects a commitment to conducting successful surveillance while saving enough tests for clinical care of individuals.

Third, we will conduct wastewater testing to determine if the virus is present in specific residential zones on campus. This innovative project is being led by faculty members Dr. Aaron Best, Dr. Brent Krueger and Dr. Mike Pikaart, who have long led water-quality research. If the levels of the virus rise in a particular zone, we will conduct follow-up testing of residents. This will allow us to stay on top of, and mitigate the risk of, a potential outbreak.

While we have confidence in our testing plan, we realize that we’ll likely have cases on our campus this semester. We are prepared to respond, with testing available as soon as any student recognizes symptoms of COVID-19, and with quarantine space available for those who test positive.

We’re also taking many of the sorts of steps that you might expect. For example, we’re promoting physical distancing by spacing desks in all classrooms six feet apart. On campus, we’re all to wear masks, complete a daily screening form, and regularly sanitize our hands and spaces.

But as we look to the future with hope, our prayer is that we see not just the challenges but also the opportunities.

We’re undoubtedly signing up for a harder semester than if we continued the fully remote instruction that we implemented in March, but we see four compelling reasons for prioritizing in-person instruction.

First, our students want to be back! The vast majority (we believe over 90 percent) want to be on campus.

Second, an in-person education, with students living and learning together, is the best education. It’s why Hope has been committed to being a residential liberal arts college for more than 160 years. That said, remote learning isn’t a poor substitute when done the Hope way. We’ve been offering courses online since 1999 and infuse them with the same individual attention and character that we provide in person.

Third, an in-person experience is more equitable. Some students have good learning environments in their homes, while others do not.

Finally, while this may be counterintuitive, bringing students on campus is actually safer and more responsible. Since a large percentage will be living in the region regardless of the teaching modality, it’s better to have them on campus participating in our testing and monitoring.

These are trying times. But as we look to the future with hope, our prayer is that we see not just the challenges but also the opportunities. As an institution of higher education, this is an unparalleled opportunity for teaching moments! It is an opportunity for innovation, as we explore new modalities of teaching and think deeply about the future of learning. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for growth. As we are shaken out of old ways of thinking, we can look at the world with new eyes, insisting that destruction and disappointment is not all there is. With this mindset, there is no better place to cultivate and spread hope through the world than a college for which true, biblical hope is a foundational identity.

— Matthew A. Scogin, President of Hope College, and Jennifer Fellinger, Chair of the college’s COVID-19 Steering Committee and VP of Public Affairs and Marketing.

Share your #GratitudeAndHope!

Dear Friends,

November is here — and the Thanksgiving season is upon us. We are so thankful for the way Hope College has transformed our lives, and we are especially thankful for all you do to support Hope!

This month, we invite you to share your gratitude. Tell us about the person, program or experience at Hope College for which you are most thankful.

You can participate in one of two ways (or both):

  • Post your gratitude publicly, along with the hashtag #GratitudeAndHope, on Instagram or Twitter. Remember that if your account is set to “private,” we won’t be able to see the post, even if you use the hashtag.

Your message can be short and sweet — just be sure to describe what made that person, program or experience so special and how they made an impact.

We can’t wait to hear how you have been transformed by Hope! During the month of November, we will share some of our favorite submissions via Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you for all you do to represent Hope College throughout the world.

Spera in Deo,
Matt ’02 and Sarah ’02 Scogin
President and First Lady, Hope College

Inauguration Day details for Faculty and Staff – Friday, September 13

Thank you so much for being a part of the Presidential Inauguration celebration. We know that some aspects of inauguration day can disrupt routines (parking lot closures, anyone?!), which is why we are especially grateful for your patience and your collaborative, celebratory spirit. This is a special day in the history of the college, and, as one faculty member recently said to us, “What a great day it will be!” 

Here are a few final reminders for faculty before Friday’s ceremony and celebration:

  • Parking: We will have hundreds of guests on campus Friday, and we hope to make their parking experience positive. (To better manage parking challenges and traffic flow, we will be offering guests valet parking.) Please extend Hope hospitality to our guests by:
    • Parking in a faculty lot or on the street on the east side of campus — far from Dimnent Memorial Chapel — to enable our guests, especially those with disabilities, to park closer. 
    • Avoiding the Western Theological Seminary parking lot south of the chapel. This lot will be reserved for accessible parking.
    • Avoiding: Lots #10 (south of Schaap Science Center) and #12 (off 10th Street, next to the VanRaalte Institute / across from the Haworth Engineering Center); Lot #20 (Admissions); Lot #22 (off 9th Street, behind the Anderson-Werkman Building); and Lot #42 (south of Kruizenga Art Museum, off Columbia Avenue). These lots will be reserved for guests’ vehicles.
  • Classes: Classes will be dismissed at 2 p.m. on Friday so that all students and faculty may attend the ceremony. If your office is closed, you’re welcome to add this sign to your door. 
  • Employees invited: All Hope employees are invited to attend the ceremony! An office may close if all of the staff members in the office plan to attend the inauguration and post-ceremony celebration. Attached please find a sign you can print out and hang on your door, if desired.
  • Installation Ceremony: The ceremony begins at 2:30 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.
    • For faculty and staff not in the processional: All faculty and staff are invited to attend the ceremony, even if they are not participating in the processional. The ceremony is open to the public, and no tickets are needed. There will be a reserved section in Dimnent Memorial Chapel for employees; please plan to arrive early, as the unused space in this section will be released 15 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony. For those faculty who are not able to be present at Dimnent Memorial Chapel, the inauguration ceremony will be streamed online at hope.edu/live and will be broadcast live in the Concert Hall of the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. There also will be a live broadcast for students in the Bultman Student Center Great Room.
    • For faculty in the processional
      • 2:00 p.m.: Faculty (in regalia) gather on 12th Street, between Dimnent Memorial Chapel and Western Theological Seminary. In case of inclement weather, line-up will take place in Dimnent B11.
      • 2:20 p.m: Prepare to process.
      • 2:30 p.m.: Processional begins promptly at 2:30 p.m. Faculty will follow the international flag-bearers and will be seated in reserved pews at the front of the chapel. 
      • Recessional: Faculty recess following the ceremony. Faculty marshals will dismiss faculty, starting with the front rows on both sides of the aisle, once the platform party has recessed. 
  • Post-Ceremony Reception: Following the installation ceremony, there will be a public reception with President Scogin and his family. All are invited to join the celebration, taking place at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Social media: If you are a social media user, feel free to celebrate online by posting inauguration-related messages, using the hashtag #transformedbyhope.
  • Events through Saturday: There are many other events this week, including a Celebration of the Arts on Thursday night and Community Day all-day Saturday, featuring a picnic, football and soccer games, and fireworks.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at inauguration@hope.edu.

As always, thank you for everything you do for Hope College — and thank you for your cooperation. What a great day it will be!

Spera in Deo —

Mary Remenschneider, Office of the President
Jennifer Fellinger, Public Affairs and Marketing
Co-chairs, Presidential Inauguration Committee

Be a part of the Presidential Inauguration celebration!


We hope you have marked your calendar for the Presidential Inauguration, which will take place Friday, September 13, 2:30 pm., in Dimnent Memorial Chapel. A lot of planning goes into an inauguration celebration, and we are grateful to those of you who have been involved in the preparations over the last few months — thank you!

In advance of the inauguration, please: 

  • Register for the faculty processional: Full-time faculty are invited to participate in the processional in full academic regalia. If you plan to participate in the processional, you must register online by Friday, September 6. 
  • Remember that classes after 2 p.m. are cancelled: Classes will be dismissed at 2 p.m. on September 13 so that all students and faculty may attend the ceremony.
  • Plan to attend (or watch!): While classes are cancelled on the afternoon of inauguration, the college will not close. However, Hope employees are invited to attend the ceremony, and an office may close if all of the staff members in the office plan to attend the inauguration and post-ceremony celebration. 
    • The ceremony is open to the public, and no tickets are needed. There will be a reserved section in Dimnent Memorial Chapel for employees not participating in the processional; please plan to arrive early, as the unused space in this section will be released 15 minutes prior to the start of the ceremony.
    • For those employees who are not able to be present at Dimnent Memorial Chapel, the inauguration ceremony will be streamed online at hope.edu/live and will be broadcast live in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts Auditorium. There also will be a live broadcast for students in the Bultman Student Center Great Room.
  • Celebrate with us!: Following the ceremony, we are hosting a Celebration with President Scogin and his family. This event is open to the public and everyone is invited to be part of the fun. The event will take place at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center.

There are many other events taking place during Inauguration Week, including: a concert by Young Oceans on Sept. 11; a Celebration of the Arts on Sept. 12, featuring all four of Hope’s arts departments; and Community Day on Sept. 14, complete with a picnic, football and soccer games, and… fireworks! Please check out the schedule and be a part of this very special weeklong celebration honoring Hope’s 14th president, Matthew A. Scogin!

Thank you for all you have done to welcome President Scogin and his family to Hope College. We look forward to seeing at the inauguration events!

Inauguration of President Matthew A. Scogin

You are invited to attend the inauguration of
Matthew A. Scogin
Fourteenth President of Hope College

Friday, September 13, 2019

Installation Ceremony, 2:30 pm
Dimnent Memorial Chapel

Celebration, 4:00 pm
Haworth Inn and Conference Center

No tickets are required. For the ceremony, a reserved seating area for staff will be available until 2:15 pm, after which any remaining seats will be open to all guests.

The ceremony will be streamed online at hope.edu/live. Other viewing opportunities will be available at other campus locations.

For additional information and a full schedule of all inauguration events, please visit hope.edu/inauguration.

Christian Aspirations Guide Board Action

On Friday, May 3, 2019, after the Board of Trustees wrapped up its two-day spring meeting, President Dennis N. Voskuil sent an email to Hope College employees providing an update on the board meeting. In his email, President Voskuil included the following:

You may recall that, one year ago, at its May 2018 meeting, the Board of Trustees affirmed a statement of Hope’s Christian Aspirations, which articulated the college’s aim to be faithful, to be welcoming and to be transformational. In August, at the State of the College Address, I invited the campus community to join me in celebrating Hope’s Christian identity and exploring our three aspirations. I encouraged the Hope community not to flinch from the challenge of living into the new statement. And, over the past year, the Board of Trustees has indeed embraced this challenge. At this week’s meeting, the board had candid, thoughtful discussions about how the college can update policies and practices to better support its work to be faithful, welcoming and transformational. Specifically, the board focused on two aspirations:

  • Hope aspires to be faithful. The board voted to remove ambiguity in our faculty hiring policy, so that the language of the policy aligns with current practice. The board’s hiring directive* has been “to strive diligently” to hire Christian faculty, when, in fact, the practice has been not just striving to do so but actually doing so. We explicitly match the two with this board action, which states that the college will hire full-time faculty who are “dedicated to excellence in teaching and scholarship, and who have a mature understanding of and commitment to the Christian faith.” In the spirit of vibrant ecumenism, we will define “Christian” broadly and diversely, recognizing that “the variety of expressions of the Christian faith we hold in common contributes to the vitality of Hope College.” Indeed, Hope will be a place where we “work together with one mind and purpose” (Phil 2:2), even as we have a myriad of perspectives.
  • Hope aspires to be welcoming. The board voted to replace the Position Statement on Human Sexuality with the statement of Hope’s Christian Aspirations. With this board action, Hope’s guiding statement on faith will be one that articulates the promise, richness and complexity of our Christian identity, rather than a statement that articulates a position on a single issue. As a college community that seeks to be robustly ecumenical, we acknowledge that faithful and professing Christians across the globe — and on our campus — hold differing views on human sexuality and the definition of marriage. With that in mind, we believe we can both cherish our historic affiliation with the RCA and honor the diversity of perspectives within the global Church. Our institutional focus will be on our shared faith in Jesus Christ, and we will affirm Hope’s commitment to be welcoming to every person. In doing so, we will endeavor in earnest to be “a community where all come together to offer their gifts of understanding to one another.”


* The hiring directive dates back to January 1984, when the Board of Trustees “directed the President, administration, and faculty to strive diligently, whenever persons are recruited to the faculty for tenure-track positions, to identify and recruit persons of outstanding ability and character who are dedicated to excellence in teaching and scholarship, and who have a mature understanding of and commitment to the Christian faith.”

Hope College Announces 14th President

Dear Members of the Hope Community,

Earlier today, the Board of Trustees completed its special meeting to vote on the 14th president of Hope College. I am delighted to announce that Hope’s next president will be Mr. Matthew A. Scogin ’02, effective July 1, 2019.

As a strategic thinker who has worked on the most important economic and social issues facing our nation, Matt will bring intellectual depth and visionary leadership to Hope College. Matt personifies the mission of Hope, as he has led a life of leadership and service at the highest levels of business and government. He is also a passionate follower of Christ, brings a strong commitment to inclusive excellence and diversity, and articulates the college’s mission with contagious and inspiring enthusiasm. This makes him the perfect leader for Hope’s next chapter.

Matt is driven by a love for Hope that certainly resonates with our alumni, families and supporters. Last month, during the on-campus interview process, Matt described Hope as the place that transformed his life. He recalled Hope faculty who invested in him and mentored him so that he might flourish in his career and in his faith. And, he reflected on the long-lasting impact of his Hope education. As an alumnus who lives and breathes Hope College, Matt understands the unique strengths that distinguish our campus community.

This announcement marks an important milestone for the college, and we would not have arrived here without the hard work and ongoing support of many people. First, I want to thank you — alumni, parents, families and friends — for your prayers and encouragement throughout the entire presidential search. I am grateful, too, for the members of the Presidential Search Committee, who dedicated an entire year to this search, spending countless hours reviewing candidate applications, checking references, conducting interviews and making difficult decisions. Special thanks go to Mrs. Suzanne Shier, who chaired the committee.

In the months leading up to July, President Dennis Voskuil and I will be working closely with Matt to prepare for a smooth and successful leadership transition.

Please continue keeping all of Hope’s leaders, especially our current president and our new president-elect, in your prayers. And, together, let us look toward the future of Hope College with deep faith, great optimism and heartfelt appreciation for those who, over the years, have contributed to our strong foundation.

Spera in Deo,
Karl

Karl Droppers
Chair, Board of Trustees
Hope College

November Presidential Search Update

I am delighted to provide you with an update on the search for the 14th President of Hope College.

On Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3, the Presidential Search Committee interviewed eight semi-finalists. Again, we were impressed by the exceptional caliber of the candidates. Hope College is indeed blessed to attract the interest of so many wonderful leaders.

After much discussion and discernment, the Committee selected three finalists to bring to campus. These three finalists will visit Hope College on Thursday, November 15 and Friday, November 16. There will be opportunities for students, faculty, staff, administration and trustees to interact with the candidates. We will share more details on the time and location for each session in the next few days.

Next week, I will send you an email that includes the names of the finalists, their biographies and their curriculum vitae (CV), as well as links to feedback forms for each candidate.

At this time we are mindful of the power of mission, prayer and community.

  • We are grounded in our mission — to educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society through academic and Co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberals arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith.
  • We are guided by prayer — O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you. Psalm 84:12.
  • We live in community — united in our care and support for one another.

Please join us as a community dedicated to our mission and vigilant in prayer as we welcome the finalists to campus!

Spera in Deo,
Suzanne Shier
Chair, Presidential Search Committee

The mission of Hope College is to educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society through academic and co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberal arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith.