One Artist, One Faculty, One Question

Numerous professional visiting artists come to campus each academic year to both display their creative talents and impart their expressive wisdom to the Hope community. They show and tell us, by virtue of their displayed talents and spoken wisdom, that the arts are important to our collective communities because they require response and engagement, making us more mindful and inspired; making us more human.

Four of those visiting artists sat down separately with a Hope faculty member to answer how the arts contribute to the public good. It is a question whose answer is necessary toward a better understanding of what makes the arts important in our lives and world.

In this third installment of One Question, Director of Theatre Michelle Bombe sits down with American playwright Nathan Allen who is also the artistic director of the House Theatre of Chicago. Allen co-wrote “The Sparrow,” a play performed at the college during the fall of 2015, for which Allen returned to campus to direct. The play, “Rose and the Rime,” was written and created and directed by Allen too, in 2006-07, in a collaborative effort with the Hope cast and design team. That Hope production earned the prestigious honor of being selected to be performed during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (ACTF) National Festival in Washington, D.C., in April, 2008.

Team Hope Meets Team USA

As patriotic Americans, we’ve grabbed a seat to watch the Rio Olympics for the past week and half, anticipating that greatness and inspiration will blanket us with the Games-glow emitting through our tv screens. What with 75 U.S. medals won as of Monday, August 15, it’s blissful times like these — compliments of hard-working, awe-inspiring, fair-playing athletes — when many are proud to be American.

teamUSABut that pride and inspiration for U.S. Olympians grows exponentially when you’ve actually had the opportunity to meet, talk and play alongside some of them. Such is the case for 14 Hope students and two professors who spent a portion of a 2016 May Term, entitled Elite Sport Development in America, at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Spring, Colorado.

Led by Professors Chad Carlson and Becky Schmidt of Hope’s kinesiology department, students spent a week in Colorado — at the USOTC and at other professional sports venues like the Broncos Stadium of the NFL — to learn how elite athletes are developed and resourced. Carlson and Schmidt collaborated to create this first-time May Term to show students some ways that sporting pipelines fill and flow to produce wins and records for the United States.

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Senior Caitlyn Campbell shows off her extra access at the USOTC.

“We wanted our student to get an up-close look at the multitude of ways U.S. athletes are trained to reach their peaks by national governing organizations,” said Carlson. “We saw how the athletes, on both the Olympic and Paralympic teams at the USOTC, are trained physically, psychologically, nutritionally, technologically and medically. We also heard from post-participation experts who help athletes’ transition out of their sports worlds and into the ‘real world’ smoothly. Overall, our access to athletes and coaches at the USOTC was high, and we could not have asked for a better schedule and opportunities to rub shoulders with high-level people.”

Besides one awestruck highlight of meeting U.S. Swim Team captains Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt after lunch in the USOTC cafeteria, Hope students also got to watch a sparring match between American boxers and the Azerbaijan team, were befriended by the men’s gymnastics team, shot precision rifles on the shooting range, and learned a thing or two about judo and Paralympic volleyball. (They had related academic assignments to work on, too!) While all of the USOTC experiences were meaningful and educational, junior Bryanna Howard,  an athletic training major, was especially moved by her encounters with Paralympians.

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U.S. Swim Team captain Michael Phelps (in hat) and Allison Schmitt, right of Phelps, meet Team Hope.

“The US Paralympic athletes that I met with are some of the most down-to-earth, passionate, kind, and strong-willed people I have ever met,” says Howard. “Most of them, I learned, were born able-bodied, and something happened to make them adaptive. But their courage and strength were evident as they talked about how they proved doctors wrong, and learned to adapt and still be successful with their new outlook on life. They were awesome to meet with, and now my new goal is to hopefully work with them one day. Especially because of the suggestions by the OTC staff to apply for their internships.”

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Getting a session and lesson by Paralympic coaches and athletes in sitting volleyball.

And that is one of the desired outcomes of this May Term. That Hope students interested in working in athletics would develop connections with folks in sports industries and find internships that would move them toward their dream jobs.

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“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” Hope student Tim Pletcher flips a former judo Olympian (and now assistant coach) while Sam Jansen, left, and Nick Buursma, right, watch the action.

“One of the main mantras at the OTC is ‘bold wins gold,'” Schmidt explains, “but that doesn’t only mean athletically.  It was evident there that it applies to those who are bold to step up and do something when working behind-the-scenes with athletes. So many people apply for jobs at the OTC, and it’s people who are most bold who get them. It was great to see our students not waiting to reach out to OTC staffers.  They started to make connections by making introductions or sending out emails then and there.”

Now watching the Rio Olympics every second they can, these Hope students have a newer and deeper appreciation for what it takes to be an Olympic and Paralympic athlete.  And they also have a newer and deeper appreciation for what it means to be an Olympic and Paralympic human.

“Before going to the OTC, I had this idea that most Olympians were these specimen athletes who were designed by scientists to be elite,” says junior history and economic double major, Joey Williams. “What I found was that, despite the fancy equipment and scientists, these athletes are at the top level because they love their sport and are willing to work towards their goals…And (I learned) these athletes are young people just like us, except they happen to be really, really, really good at their craft.”

Howard concurs and adds:

“Seeing the athletes that I talked to now on the world’s biggest stage, I cheer for them in a different light. I got to see them train, away from the cameras and the limelight; I got to see their personalities and their work ethic, and their drive to perfect their skills before the world sees them. I feel like I know them, just a little bit, because I saw them, and I talked to them, not what the media writes about them, or what they say when the cameras are on. We saw these incredible elite athletes as just normal people: sharing a meal in the dining hall, walking in the same halls as them, watching them train, and taking pictures with them after a training session.”

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Members of the men’s gymnastics team quickly befriended many on the Hope May Term team.

Saving Sands for Time and Life

Just to the east, just beyond the beach and into the dunes is a place that Suzanne DeVries-Zimmerman likes best about the Lake Michigan shore. Fewer footprints can be seen there, but life is actually more abundant. The terrain is less flat but just as sandy. And once she and the four Hope geology students with whom she conducts research step their feet off the shoreline’s beaten path, they find rolling sanctuaries of beauty and biodiversity. For it is there, in the interdunal wetlands along the big lake’s coast, that DeVries-Zimmerman and her students have plans to help conserve sands for time and life.

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It’s not a bad gig if you can get it, working at a beach in the summer. DZ, as her students affectionately call her, is quick to admit that. The scenery and commute never get old even with three pounds of sand in their shoes, or when the temperatures climb into infernal degrees. Walking into the interdunal wetlands of the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area — with permission from the local municipality and Land Conservancy of West Michigan — is quite a hike when laden down with research equipment, but “who wouldn’t want to spend a day here?” asks DeVries-Zimmerman, sweeping her right arm out over the landscape. “I covet this land,” she goes on to confess. But not as her own. DeVries-Zimmerman wants to maintain these areas for generations of plants and animals, insects and birds, as well as humans, to come.

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The dune crew’s morning commute: Hiking into the interdunal wetlands of the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area.

“Our research aims to better understand how these interdunal systems work,” explains DeVries-Zimmerman, adjunct assistant professor of geological and environmental sciences. “They have not been well studied and they are ecosystems in danger in Michigan.  Where these areas can develop and thrive along the lakeshore is somewhat limited. But we find huge biodiversity in them and that is very valuable to us all, not just the plants and creatures who live there.”

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Wind scours the sand to the water table, creating a depression where an interdunal wetland can form. Rising water levels in the big lake will fill the depression with water, allowing wetland species to grow (the dark green areas) while falling levels in the big lake dries up the water, creating more sand erosion and deepening the potential wetland pool.

Put in peril by development and the drastically changing water levels of Lake Michigan, the interdunal wetlands are needed for migrating birds and butterflies, and for winter residents such as the predatory snowy owl. Western chorus frogs love to sing their songs in them and the yellow-flowered St. John’s wort favors the edge of the area’s low-lying pools to “keep their feet wet.” The wind-scoured depressions grow numerous wetland plant species such as beak rush, ferns, swamp rose, blue vervain, and steeplebush. Marram, horsemint, puccoon and Pitcher’s thistle, the latter a native plant that can only be found in Great Lakes dunes, grow in the sands away from too much water. By conducting topographical and ecological surveys, DeVries-Zimmerman, senior Jennifer Fuller, junior Dane Peterson, senior Benjamin VanGorp and senior Alexandria Watts are finding out more about the hydrology of the wetlands, how those areas are affected by the fluctuating lake levels, and how, in turn, that impacts the communities of flora and fauna uniquely therein. That is this dune crew’s interdisciplinary mission and passion.

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Senior Alex Watts, left, and Professor DeVries-Zimmerman check water levels within an interdunal pool.

“I find it fascinating how the dune species are so finely adapted to sections within the dune system,” says Watts. “Depending on the fluctuation of a couple centimeters, the plants have the ability to outline pools and ridges providing a pretty accurate picture of the topography of the area. I suppose there is almost something secretive or special that certain species can tell so much more than just being a green thing. They make me feel like a detective and you have to have a trained eye to see the clues.”

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Professor Suzanne DeVries-Zimmerman ’82 has taught in the Department of Geological and Environmental Studies at Hope, her alma mater, since 1999.

Significant funding secured from the Michigan Space Grant Consortium, the Jacob Nyenhuis Summer Faculty-Student Collaborative Development Grants, the Ver Hey Geology Summer Research Fund, and the Joyce Fund for Environmental Research has given DeVries-Zimmerman, her students, and three other Hope professors studying the dunes — Dr. Edward Hansen, Dr. Brian Bodenbender, and Dr. Brian Yurk — ample opportunities to learn more about dunes and dune management, even in England and Wales. This summer, the group spent three weeks at Liverpool-Hope University and along England’s Sefton Coast and Wale’s northern coast, learning how the British manage their dunes while initiating collaborative dune research projects in the process.

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Jenny Fuller levels a total station with Dane Peterson at the Saugatuck Harbor Natural Area.

“The trip to England was a unique experience in that their dune management process has been far more involved in comparison to Michigan. There’s so many more factors at play in England’s dunes and interdunal wetlands,” Fuller points out. “Not only do they have the Atlantic Ocean seawater and weather to contend with, but a much longer history of human interactions. We met and worked with professors that have created methods of studying sand dune habitats, and their geomorphological movement throughout history using aerial imagery. They have already implemented ways of reopening dunes that have been over stabilized and established new management practices based on their findings. We left with many ideas, and perhaps even more questions about how the differences in our dune ecosystems will affect the way we need to take care of our dunes back home.”

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Senior Ben VanGorp holds a surveying pole.

Each student appreciates their research with DeVries-Zimmerman for the impact it will have on their future as well as for the fun they having now. Of their prof, they proclaim to have found a mentor full of knowledge and joy for her work.

“The most interesting thing for me this summer has been all of the new techniques and methods that I have been able to engage with and use,” declares Peterson. “I’m learning how to use different computer programs for mapping and comparison; I learned how to set up and run a surveying station; and, I’ve learned how to use pole aerial photography to obtain the information that I want.”

Adds VanGorp, “The part I love most working with DZ is how incredibly smart she is while also still having a great sense of humor. There is never a boring day in the field with her.”

“The early (dune) management thinking was to stabilize dunes.  The thinking was the only good dune is a stable dune, but that’s not the right management model anymore.  We want some dunes to continue to migrate so ecological succession can occur.”

Having researched Lake Michigan dunes with her three aforementioned professorial colleagues for over a decade now, DeVries-Zimmerman says they are still finding out “how much we don’t know” about the dunes and wetlands. They do know, though, that dunes must be allowed to move — if even a little — in order for biodiversity to thrive. “The early (dune) management thinking was to stabilize dunes. The thinking was the only good dune is a stable dune, but that’s not the right management model anymore. We want some dunes to continue to migrate so ecological succession can continue to occur.”

So, the woman who has loved the wetlands and dunes since she was a small child growing up in Holland, Michigan, will continue to keep her eyes on the sand. The winds will blow, water will rise and fall, and the finest grains of earth will grow and sustain a delicate natural order. And as it all does, DZ will remain just offshore, both at Hope and along Lake Michigan, for the sake of her students’ education and the sustainability of ecosystems made possible by wet and moving dunes.

One Artist, One Faculty, One Question

Numerous professional visiting artists come to campus each academic year to both display their creative talents and impart their expressive wisdom to the Hope community. They show and tell us, by virtue of their displayed talents and spoken wisdom, that the arts are important to our collective communities because they require response and engagement, making us more mindful and inspired; making us more human.

Four of those visiting artists sat down separately with a Hope faculty member over the past year to answer how the arts contribute to the public good. It is a question whose answer is necessary toward a better understanding of what makes the arts important in our lives and world.

In this second installment of One Question, Assistant Professor of Theatre, Richard Perez, sits down with British actor Julian Sands. Sands performed “A Celebration of Harold Pinter” for Hope’s Great Performance Series last January. Described as “a warm, witty, and thoroughly winning actor” by the Chicago Tribune, Sands has been seen world-wide in films, on stage and on television. He has appeared in more than 100 films, including, “The Killing Fields,” “A Room With A View,” “Impromptu,” “Leaving Las Vegas,” “Arachnophobia,” “Oceans 13” and  “The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo.” He is best known on television for his recent role on “24” but has also appeared on “Smallville,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Dexter” and “Banshee.”

New Lessons in Old Norse

Few graduate schools in the U.S. teach Old Norse, an ancient language with Germanic origins, and fewer liberal arts colleges offer it still. But this past academic year, Dr. Lee Forester brought the language of Vikings and Icelanders and even Tolkien fans to a Hope classroom, using modern techniques to teach age-old, runic vocabulary and grammar.

At first, Forester, a professor of German who also studied Old Norse during his graduate school days, decided to offer the new yearlong course for personal reasons – his son, who is enrolled at Hope, was interested. “But his interest made me realize others could want this class, too,” the professor says.

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Dr. Lee Forester, professor of German, offered new classes in Old Norse this past academic year

Sure enough, others did. At total of fourteen students enrolled in this first-time offering, receiving elective credit. Most of the students had some German background and many, it turned out, were J.R.R. Tolkien fans. What does the lord of The Lord of the Rings have to do with Old Norse?

“Old Norse has an older stage of its writing system that pre-dates Latin called runes,” explains Forester. “Runes are a form of writing carved in stone or wood, using mostly straight lines because it was much easier to carve those as opposed to circles or curves. These are found all over Sweden and Norway.

“The students know about runes if they are Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans,” he continues. “Tolkien created his own runic languages for his Middle Earth series, based very much on his work with Germanic languages. Tolkien was a Germanic linguist himself.”

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An example of runes. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Creating this new class – offered as German 295 – was no small task and became a true labor of love for Forester. Finding a current, modern textbook was his first challenge. Few are in print. He quickly ruled out one that dated back to 1850 and found the only text he deemed suitable, The Viking Language Series, by Jesse Byock, a Scandinavian scholar and archeologist from UCLA.

Teaching grammar first and then vocabulary later, Forester got both creative and resourceful in his lesson-planning and instruction. He used Quizlet, a website that combines technology and language instruction, to test students on 28 Old Norse word lists. Then he hired a tutor from Iceland who lives in Denmark – Thor Jōhannsson – to speak and record those words so students could hear an authentic pronunciation as they read along. For added instructional help, Forester and his students also uploaded pictures alongside each Old Norse word to give visual support while Thor gave aural accuracy.

“Thor guest-taught a class via Skype from Denmark one day, too, which was very nice,” says Forester. “There is a huge demand right now for tutors of Icelandic. We were fortunate to have him.”

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A page out of Byock’s book, Viking Language 2 (with Forester’s handwritten notes)

Then, an added affirmation of Forester’s teaching came from out of the blue when Byock, the text author, contacted Forester unsolicited. Byock had found the Hope prof’s Quizlet pages online and thought they were outstanding. Now Byock is using them for his classes at UCLA.

Forester hopes to offer Old Norse again but will take a year off. While he and his students enjoyed the new work (though he termed it “the hardest language some will ever encounter but they were up for the challenge”), he says he’ll wait for a new crop of interested students to grow large enough for a full class. With the popularity of Vikings history, Icelandic tourism, and, of course, all things Tolkien, it most likely won’t take long to fill another Old Norse class, when next time he’ll weave more old Nordic and Icelandic culture into his lessons.

So for now, it’s not vertu blessaður (goodbye); it’s þar til næst (until next time).

One Artist, One Faculty, One Question

Numerous professional visiting artists come to campus each academic year to both display their creative talents and impart their expressive wisdom to the Hope community. They show and tell us, by virtue of their displayed talents and spoken wisdom, that the arts are important to our collective communities because they require response and engagement, making us more mindful and inspired; making us more human.

Four of those visiting artists sat down separately with a Hope faculty member over the past year to answer how the arts contribute to the public good. It is a question whose answer is necessary toward a better understanding of what makes the arts important in our lives and world.

In this first installment of One Question, Matt Farmer, assistant professor of dance and chairperson of the department, sits down with Julia Rhoads, the founder and artistic director of Lucky Plush Productions (LPP), a dance company based in Chicago, Illinois. LPP appeared at Hope through the college’s Artist-in-Residence program.  The company previously performed at Hope in the fall of 2014 through the Great Performance Series.

 

 

Boston: City of History, Archives, and GLCA Research Opportunities

In unarguably America’s most historic city, Dr. Natalie Dykstra is currently flinging open archival doors, often quite literally, for the scholarship and imaginations of Midwest faculty and students. 

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Dr. Natalie Dykstra, professor of English and director of the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar (Photo provided by Natalie Dykstra)

Each June in Boston – with its wealth of recorded narratives and artifacts from the past, Dykstra – with her trademark affinity for American history and literature – welcomes researchers from Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) schools to step foot into history by working in notable archives that house a myriad of interdisciplinary stories. Once in them, participants in the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar (BSS) find that centuries-worth of artifacts and articles impact their independent thinking and learning. It’s become a win-win-win situation for all involved.

“In Boston, the GLCA faculty members win because they get to concentrate on their own work,” says Dykstra. “Students win because they get to live in this great city and do original research. And the archives we work with win, too, because they want to be part of it. They want to have their materials looked at and used.”

Dykstra, professor English, created the now-competitive and popular GLCA Boston Summer Seminar just two summers ago. Teaching at Hope in the fall and living with her husband in Waltham, Massachusetts, the remainder of the year, she wanted to expose Midwest faculty and students to the Boston institutions that changed her life when she researched and wrote her critically-acclaimed book, Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Lifea once hidden story about a fiercely intelligent and creative Boston Brahmin. “I found working in the archives to uncover Clover’s life and death to be moving and gripping… And I wanted others to have that same experience, that same feeling, too,” she confides.

After all, Dykstra’s dream was to make archive work the heartbeat of the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar experience, making available  tactile materials – diaries, ledgers, photos, letters, newspaper clippings – that make history come alive.

Helping others to use archival materials to unfold other remarkable stories would require partnering with Boston research institutions that house unique primary source materials. After all, Dykstra’s dream was to make archive work the heartbeat of the GLCA Boston Summer Seminar experience, making available for students tactile materials – diaries, ledgers, photos, letters, newspaper clippings – that make history come alive. So, with the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) as host, she and Hope alum and MHS reference librarian Anna Clutterbuck-Cook ’05 arrange a network of connections with the Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections, and three archives at Harvard University: the Countway Center for the History of Medicine, the Schlesinger Library and Houghton Library.

“You don’t create a program like this by yourself,” confesses Dykstra. “If the Boston Summer Seminar was my idea, Anna and her expertise has been absolutely crucial in getting it off the ground and making it a success. All our partner archivists are necessary for our success, and a pure pleasure to work with…. Plus, they have asked me, ‘Where do you get your students? We are so impressed.’ It’s a joy and a privilege to hear them say that.” Dykstra is also grateful to the strong support for the seminar from Greg Wegner at the GLCA and from her college colleagues.

Once participants are selected – three teams consisting of a faculty member and two students, from numerous applications each year – Dykstra and Clutterbuck-Cook connect GLCA faculty and students to the right archivist according to their interests. This year, teams from Albion College, Denison University, and Oberlin College are delving into topics on the experience of black Northerners in the era of Southern Emancipation, Boston and New England in Atlantic contexts, and occult practices and new literary traditions in 19th century America, respectively.

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Dr. Julia Randel, back right, Genevieve Janvrin ’15, front left, and Hannah Jacobsma ’16, front right, ride the Boston subway, off to a GLCA Boston Summer Seminar event. (Photo provided by Genevieve Janvrin)

Last June, though, the Hope team of Dr. Julia Randel, associate professor of music and chair of the department, and then students Hannah Jacobsma and Genevieve Janvrin, now graduates, were selected to go to Boston – receiving faculty funding and student stipends (as all participants do) – to conduct research on three separate, though related, projects:  Romanticism in 19th-century French ballet (Jacobsma); the tours by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes that brought serious ballet to the United States in 1916-17 (Janvrin); and George Balanchine’s work with Igor Stravinsky (Randel). Randel’s research in Boston informs a book she is writing about the composer and choreographer.

“Natalie’s work for us was so wonderful,” declares Randel, who earned her doctorate from Harvard and specializes in the history of European and American classical music. “We had so much support there. And for me, going to Boston was like going home, and I hadn’t been back for a while. It was like a dream come true to receive funding to be in a place I love.”

Besides the transformative experience of archive work, faculty and students are exposed to weekly guest speakers, such as Pulitzer Prize winner Megan Marshall, receive historical tours, and are hosted at Dykstra’s Waltham home. Each activity and project gives participants both a breadth and depth of experience as well as clarity of purpose, gleaned from the past and applied to the present and future.

“I got carried away with the stories and the questions,” wrote Janvrin in a BSS blog entry about her experience. “I got carried away with the quiet Houghton atmosphere and the kind souls, both living and dead, who guided me. I got carried away with Boston. My time at MHS, Houghton, and Harvard helped formulate a desire for the future: I want to be a researcher.”

Hope Formula SAE: Right on Track

An old adage in car racing goes quickly like this: “In order to finish first, first you have to finish.” It’s as black and white, like a checkered flag, as that.

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Number 68 on track: Hope College Formula SAE car and driver

Last week when the Hope College Formula SAE team finished every event set before them at Formula SAE Competition at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS), it fulfilled the last half of that clear-cut adage while hoping for the first. Getting to the finish line of seven design and driving events was their top priority; getting there first would have been a big, though honestly difficult, bonus.

“The team had three main goals this year: show up at MIS with a car, pass the technical inspection, and compete in and finish all events,” says Carl Heideman, the team’s advisor and Hope’s director of process and innovation and CIT. “We were very excited to meet each goal and finished mid-pack in every event.”

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Carl Heideman advises freshman Jarrett Matson before his driving event.

In fact, in the end, the Hope car was one of only 65 to finish each event (business presentation, engineering design, cost/manufacturing analysis, acceleration, cornering, autocross and endurance/fuel economy) and placed 77th overall out of 115 cars. Hailing from one of only two four-year liberal arts colleges at the national and international competition (the other four-year school finished 109th), the Hope team, with 15 members strong, placed higher than better-sourced university teams like Michigan Tech, US Air Force Academy, Rutgers University, Lawrence Tech, and Brown University.  The first-place finisher was the Universität Stuttgart from Germany, and Oregon State University topped the U.S. entries at fourth.

“This project is really not about the competition and it’s not about a car,” Heideman declares. “It’s a metaphor for an education.”

Formula SAE is not simply a race but a well-rounded competition organized by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) International in which students design a formula-style race car, build it from the ground up, raise their own funds, and develop their car for a variety of static and dynamic events. Each co-curricular team creates its prototype based on a series of rules spelled out in a guidebook about 300 pages long. These rules ensure on-track safety as well as promote the development of engineering skills.

This was Hope’s second foray into the Formula SAE designing, building, and racing world. In 2010, a Hope team finished 76th, garnering Rookie of the Year honors. This year’s team, though, improved in every event score over the 2010 team except acceleration.

“This project is really not about the competition and it’s not about a car,” Heideman declares. “It’s a metaphor for an education. When you talk to students, they will tell you they learned a ton about project management, about team dynamics and about relationships. And along the way, they learned a little bit about engineering, too.”

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In the pit at MIS: Hope Formula SAE team members work on their car.

Powered by a motorcycle engine, fabricated from frame to axles and costing no more than $30,000 dollars to create, the Hope car was admittedly not an innovative one but it was very reliable and robust, Heideman says. Heavier than most of the other cars it competed against, the car was built by the team to stay true to its business logic and design case. It was built with the amateur weekend racer in mind.

Freshman Jarrett Matson from Mahwah, New Jersey, has been interested in anything that moves with an engine since he was very young. A mechanical engineering major, he was drawn to the SAE team not only due to his future aspirations to work in the automotive industry but also because he wanted to learn how to weld better. He did that and along the way learned a more global lesson.

“The most valuable thing I’ve learned from making this car is how to work on a team with other people,” reflects Matson. “I do well working by myself, but that’s not how this works. With this project, I had to figure out ways to communicate better, ways to motivate people, ways to collaborate. We spent a lot of time together working on this car. Sometimes it went well, sometimes not so well. We just had to work it out.”

“This team has taught me how to handle success, but also has taught me to be able to admit and move past failure. I believe this is the greatest quality about this team.”

Senior team captain Ryan McConnell from Cadillac, Michigan, told Patti Engineering, one of the team’s sponsors, that “Hope College Formula SAE is more to me than just a club, or an on-campus organization. This team is a set of friends, and it shows through all the work that we do. If it were not for this team, I would not have the practical experience of engineering that I need to truly be a successful engineer. This team has taught me how to handle success, but also has taught me to be able to admit and move past failure. I believe this is the greatest quality about this team. We all have learned to tell others that we are wrong, and we have now developed the skills to move on and fix those mistakes and failures.”

One example of the beauty, frustration, joy, and reality of team dynamics was best displayed during the endurance event of the competition. The team encountered a snafu but worked to solve the crucial problem with less than 15 seconds to spare, then drove the final five laps first in rain, then in sleet.  (The weather was not pretty in Michigan late last week.) It was a terrific example of creative problem solving, putting liberal arts, critical thinking to good use.

“The students really demonstrated the attributes and values of a Hope College education,” summarizes Heideman. “They made friends, helped others, impressed officials, competed vigorously, and stayed humble and composed throughout.”

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The 2016 Hope College Formula SAE team

The First Great Inoculation Debate

A heated debate rooted in a distrust of science about the safety and effects of childhood vaccinations has, in recent years, been under a microscope in this country. But another inoculation debate raged in the U.S. almost 300 years ago, and it was this tense, centuries-old discourse, rooted this time in both scientific and religious misgivings, that became junior Elizabeth Ensink’s research focus during the summer of 2015. Her original work on the topic earned her a prestigious place at last week’s 20th annual national Posters on the Hill event in Washington, DC, a selective poster session sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR).

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Junior Elizabeth Ensink, right, presents her research at Posters on the Hill in Washington, DC

One of only 60 projects selected for this year’s showcase from among several hundred highly competitive applications nationwide, “The First Inoculation Debate: A Quantitative Text Analysis of the Boston Smallpox Epidemic of 1721” by Ensink, looks at communication practices between doctors and religious leaders when a smallpox epidemic broke out in Boston. Puritan ministers saw inoculation as distrust in and interference with God’s will; doctors fumed at the meddling of ministers and “unlearned men” in scientific affairs; and all the while colonists, fearing for their lives, just wanted people in positions of authority to give them clear words of encouragement and actions of help.

It all sounds so familiar even today. History tends to eerily, annoyingly repeat itself.

Ensink, who is from Hudsonville, MI, became interested in the inoculation topic when looking through the digital Contagion Collection – historical documents about various epidemics and diseases – from Harvard. As a Mellon Scholar, she was set to conduct summer research after her sophomore year, and as a biology and creative writing double major, Ensink felt she found the right subject for her interdisciplinary interests.

So, using digitized documents and an online text analysis tool called Voyant, Ensink analyzed words that pro- and anti-inoculators would frequently used in their letters and other documents – words such as God, belief, providence, and symptoms, infection and incision. Not surprisingly, she found that doctors used mostly secular language and ministers spoke more in religious terms.  All except for Cotton Mather.

“This subject showed me how important it is to have people know how to communicate science to the general public. One of the most important parts of my research was questioning how we get meaning from words that are being used to convey vital messages.”

Mather, the fiery Puritan minister best known for his involvement in the Salem witch trials, was supportive of inoculation when he learned of it from his African slave and a report from the Royal Society of London, Ensink learned. Mather then encouraged Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to start inoculations. Though the practice was successful – 6,000 infected, 844 deaths overall, 280 saved due to inoculation –Mather and Boylston came under attack for the practice. And often it was because of the words they did or did not use.

“This subject showed me how important it is to have people know how to communicate science to the general public,” says Ensink. “One of the most important parts of my research was questioning how we get meaning from words that are being used to convey vital messages. In this case, religious and secular language was often blurred.”

Ensink presented those findings with her poster for two hours in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill, where she also had the opportunity to engage with other students from Georgia to Utah, about biochemistry and anthropology and other various subjects. “This event exposed me to diverse projects and people from diverse institutions. It was an honor.”

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Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga with Ensink (center) and Dr. Karen Nordell Pearson, associate dean for research and scholarship (right)

After the prevention of her poster on the Hill, Ensink and Dr. Karen Nordell Pearson, associate dean for research and scholarship, had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Bill Huizenga at his office in the  Capitol. “It’s really cool that in America we can go and talk to our representatives in government about what we think is important. “

And what did they talk about?

“I told him that undergraduate research should continue to receive federal funding. Events like Posters on the Hill show what students can do when funds are available.

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Elizabeth Ensink on Capitol Hill

“I also let him know how important programs like Mellon Scholars are to undergraduates. Being in Mellon allowed me to develop my own project, gave me greater critical thinking skills and a great mentor who I met with twice a week.” Ensink’s mentor, Dr. Jonathan Hagood, is an associate professor of history at Hope College. “I learned self-motivation and the ability to overcome obstacles. This work stretched me and confirmed that in the future I want to focus on science and writing.”

In every way, Ensink’s research, and her experiences because of it, have given a potent shot to her strong academic arm. “I’m so thankful for the Mellon Scholars Program for all of this,” she concludes.

Student Research and Development from Day1

It’s day 212 of Day1, the program that gives first-year students hands-on, authentic research opportunities at the very start of their Hope College education, and freshmen Ben Turner and Karey Frink are feeling as comfortable in a Schaap Center laboratory as they do in their cozy Lichty Hall dorm rooms.

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Testing Lake Mac water for E coli content

After almost a year, the two frosh have streaked a plethora of plates to isolate E. coli cultures, used a DNA sequencer to identify those E. coli strains and other bacterial populations, and analyzed the data with Hope’s supercomputer, Curie. They’ve paddled up and downstream in the Macatawa Watershed to gather water samples, in agricultural areas and residential ones throughout the Holland area. They’ve worked side-by-side with Dr. Aaron Best and Dr. Graham Peaslee, and the students worked on their own, too. In Lichty Hall, where all 13 Day1:Watershed students are housed, they’ve become part of a close-knit, residential learning community that is supportive and collaborative in their similar academic pursuits and challenges.

And through it all, Turner and Frink have experienced and developed what Hope science educators hoped the Day1 program would achieve – an early and deep-seated love and appreciation for cutting-edge research that has real-world relevance, all the while thriving in community.

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Freshman Karey Frink, foreground, works in the biochemistry lab as a member of Day 1 Watershed.  In the background is fellow Day 1 freshman Ben Turner.

“Day1 has helped me ask, ‘Do I want to do this kind of science for the rest of my life, or do I want to do something else?'” says Frink who is from Birmingham, Michigan, and plans to be a biology major and environmental science minor. “And the answer is: I love it. I love learning about this science. I’m not sure I want to continue researching forever, but I love that I’ve had this opportunity. It’s been very exciting really.”

“It’s a cool overall community,” Turner says, a native of Albion, Michigan, and also a biology major. “Living together in Lichty has been great because we are all taking the same (science) classes. So if I need help with my homework, I just go to the study lounge and there’s at least six really smart people who are willing to help. I’ve made a lot of good friends fast due to Day1.”

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Freshman Ben Turner,left, researches alongside Karey Frink, right, in the Day 1 Watershed lab.

Day1: Watershed is funded by a major grant, received in 2014 and worth $3 million, from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation of Midland, Michigan ($1.75 million goes toward the first three years of equipment and operational expenses and the rest, $1.25 million, will be endowed to fund the future of Day1.) The program seeks to study the water quality of Lake Macatawa and its watershed in partnership with Project Clarity, a broad-based community initiative established in November 2012 to remediate some of lake’s physical and bacterial issues.

“Participation in Day1 is not making students take extra time to complete their degrees. These are experiences integrated into required courses, and, in fact, because of the support structure, Day1 helps students graduate on time.”

Dr. Catherine Mader, Day1 grant author and program director, notes that the grant from Dow primarily supports the watershed program, but five other programs – Day1: Phage, Day1: Great Lakes, Day1: Michigan Rocks, and Day1: EDGE as well as a new science peer partnership learning program in Hope’s Academic Success Center (ASC) – have been impacted by its funding, too. More than 200 Hope STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students have received help with, exposure to, and academic credit for research in their preferred fields of study.

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Dr. Cathy Mader

“This is not an extracurricular program and these are not extra courses on top of their potential major requirements,” says Mader, professor of physics. “Participation in Day1 is not making students take extra time to complete their degrees. These are experiences integrated into required courses, and in fact, because of the support structure, Day1 helps students graduate on time because they are in these solid learning communities supporting each other.”

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Dr. Aaron Best
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Dr. Graham Peaslee

Along with Mader and her guidance of this program, a good deal of support comes from dedicated science faculty, such as Best and Peaslee, who not only instruct their watershed students in the ways of becoming quality researchers but also in the ways of becoming quality college students. Watershed students also take their first-year seminar (FYS) with these two profs, participating in a bridge experience as they arrive on campus a week before the start of the official academic year to begin their intensive research and FYS experience before most other freshmen arrive.

“Day1 gives you such great community while doing some not-necessarily-easy work,” says Frink. “But that work is fun because of the people who do it with me.”

Once school starts though, Day1:Watershed-ers meet twice a week for seven hours total lab time in the first semester and three hours of lab time in the second. In the context of this required class and lab taken by choice, Best and Peaslee engendered science enthusiasm by creating an environment of serious research fun. Even though the research skills and subject are advanced and the professors’ standards high, the students appreciate the culture as much as the content.

Well, actually, maybe they appreciate the culture the most.

“Day1 gives you such great community while doing some not-necessarily-easy work,” says Frink. “But that work is fun because of the people who do it with me.” “And Dr. Best and Dr. Peaslee are awesome and hilarious,” adds Turner. “Sure, they know their stuff but they are fun to be around, too.”

Best’s positive feelings about working with Day1 Watershed students are reciprocated. He appreciates their eagerness and energy and how he gets to interact with them in several different contexts – as FYS instructor, advisor, watershed explorer, researcher – all markers of the unique cross-experiential features of the program.

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“We do authentic research with necessary local application,” says Best, the Harrison C. and Mary L. Visscher Associate Professor of Genetics and Associate Professor of Biology. “I wouldn’t do this research just to do it. I don’t want my students doing research just to do it. There are too many resources involved – time and money and relationships – to do that, right? So, it’s not just enough to learn. We’re doing this to learn with purpose.”

“Without Day1, I definitely would not have this opportunity,” says Turner. “I’m probably about a year ahead in research knowledge than I should be if I hadn’t been involved in Day1.”

Understanding links between the bacterial populations and the physical changes in the Lake Mac watershed is that purpose. Best will continue on with long-term monitoring of the watershed during summer research, in which Turner will continue to be involved. “Without Day1, I definitely would not have this opportunity,” says Turner. “I’m probably about a year ahead in research knowledge than I should be if I hadn’t been involved in Day1.”

Frink will go her separate way by taking an experiential learning trip this summer to the Bahamas with Dr. Brian Bodenbender, professor of geological and environmental sciences, to study geology, biology, and sustainability. Each student’s summer opportunity is funded by Day1.

When they return in the fall, both Turner and Frink will be back together again in Day1, but this time, each will serve as teaching assistants (TAs) in the watershed program. They’ll give back to the program that allowed them to get their proverbial “feet wet” in college-level research, continuing to step into educational and watery currents that have taught and bonded them in a science career at Hope, from day one.