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. 

Dykstra.full.color.option 2
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.

bss15_day2_2
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.

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
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.”

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
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.”

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
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.”

Hope College Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE)
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).

Ensink.DC
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.”

Enzink.3
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.

Enzink.Cap1
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.

Hope College - Science students during a science lab shoot
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.

Hope College - Science students during a science lab shoot
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.”

Hope College - Science students during a science lab shoot
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.

MaderCatherine
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.”

BestAaaron
Dr. Aaron Best
PeasleeGraham
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.

Hope College - Science students during a science lab shoot

“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.

Breaks Away: Jenny Hampton

sabbatical (n): a break from customary work to acquire new skills or knowledge, traditionally occurring every seventh year

Breaks Away: Sabbatical Stories of Hope

Each academic year, a number of Hope faculty take sabbatical leaves away from the college, submersing themselves for extended periods of time into their favored fields of inquiry. If viewed from above and all together, those fields would look like a calico landscape, so varied and colorful is the topography of their collective research, writing, and creative pursuits. Offering both restoration and adventure, sabbaticals are a bit like information and imagination transfusions. These breaks away from normal classroom and committee work give Hope academicians a boost to reinforce and revitalize their teaching and scholarship.

Scientists have been searching for alternative energy sources for years, ones that are more environmentally plentiful and safe. While we tend to think first of wind and solar energy as those natural and prudent ways to power our world, Dr. Jennifer Hampton’s sabbatical research reminds us that other Earth-abundant materials – such as sodium or potassium – have the potential to help with energy usage and storage, too.

JennyHampton
Dr. Jenny Hampton, associate professor of physics, stands beside a monitor in her lab that displays charging and discharging waves of new materials that hopefully will one day provide energy storage.

At the Energy Materials Center (EMC2) at Cornell University last year as a visiting scientist, Hampton went back home in a way to help discover new energy materials and methodology. It was at Cornell where she completed her PhD in 2002, and at EMC2 where her doctoral advisor, Hector Abruña, still conducts research. There once again, Hampton dedicated a year’s worth of her own research – interdisciplinary in nature as it combines physics, chemistry and engineering – to answering these decades-old questions: What can work as energy and how can it be stored?

“There is a lot of interesting work in the fuzzy boundaries between science disciplines,” says Hampton. “That’s where this research is at. And I very much like that cross fertilization of different mindsets that are working on the same problems.”

Hampton is hoping to find ways to optimize cheap, bountiful materials for particular applications that could affect consumer electronics, transportation and even power grids.

This interconnectedness of sciences is part of Hampton’s forte. Her work in electrochemistry for making nanoporous alloys is rife with chemical and physical knowledge, two fields in which she focused her post-doctoral program for three years at Pennsylvania State University. Hampton has involved Hope students in the intermingling of these subject matters during her summer and school year research, sharing with them the importance that “a singular training or emphasis – in chemistry or physics – doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to a broader conversation, or bigger problem or solution. It almost always takes several scientists to achieve one goal.”

The goal of Hampton and her students is to look at a new type of material that has potential for use in energy storage (batteries). The class of materials is called metal hexacyanoferrates and these materials have open pores where ions of lithium, sodium, or potassium can go in and out when charging or discharging. Hampton is hoping to find ways to optimize these cheap, bountiful materials for particular applications that could affect consumer electronics, transportation and even power grids.

So far, Hampton and her battery of three students, who will be presenting their research this Friday at Hope’s Celebration of Undergraduate Research, have found that the thicker the hexacyanoferrate, the faster the charging process occurs.  “We didn’t expect that,” admits Hampton.  “Now we want to find out why.”

Hampton has a substantial grant pending from the NSF to help answer the “why.” (She was also the recipient of two previous National Science Foundation (NSF) grants worth almost $400,00 combined.) Once the reason for faster charging with thicker hexacyanoferrate is found, Hampton foresees the energy industry taking that knowledge and continuing on with their own research to build a better battery. Who knows? Maybe the battery that one day powers your car will have its foundations in a Hope College lab.

Dr. Jenny Hampton is an associate professor in the Department of Physics at Hope College.

 

Breaks Away: Sylvia Kallemeyn

sabbatical (n): a break from customary work to acquire new skills or knowledge, traditionally occurring every seventh year

Breaks Away: Sabbatical Stories of Hope

Each academic year, a number of Hope faculty take sabbatical leaves away from the college, submersing themselves for extended periods of time into their favored fields of inquiry. If viewed from above and all together, those fields would look like a calico landscape, so varied and colorful is the topography of their collective research, writing, and creative pursuits. Offering both restoration and adventure, sabbaticals are a bit like information and imagination transfusions. These breaks away from normal classroom and committee work give Hope academicians a boost to reinforce and revitalize their teaching and scholarship.

The U.S. folk singer/songwriter movement of the 1960s and 1970s gave us Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Judy Collins. A decade or two later, Latin Americans saw the rise of their own folk heroes Mercedes Sosa, Victor Jara, Maria Elena Walsh and Ruben Blades.

SylviaKallemeyn1
Professor Sylvia Kallemeyn, holding a CD of music by folk singer/social activist, Mercedes Sosa

Each singer/songwriter/activist — a half a world away from each other — was using music to accomplish the same goals for their countries: to artistically and poignantly express the current social realities of injustice in order to move nations of people to protest but ultimately, to love.

The New Song Movement, born out of struggle, political repression and sometimes civil wars in Central and South America, was the break-away focus of Professor Sylvia Kallemeyn, associate professor of Spanish, during her sabbatical leave from Hope in 2014-15.  Kallemeyn’s goal was to make these songs more accessible to students in her Spanish language classes through the study of the folk-inspired and socially-committed music of this era, first in Ecuador and then in the States.

“I want my students to listen to these enduring songs in Spanish, hear the message and get to know these singers’ cause and the history of why they wrote and sang what they wrote and sang. By using culturally authentic words and rhythms students learn these musical revolutionaries’ lessons in context. At the same time, the songs increase students’ vocabularies and help illuminate Spanish grammatical concepts.”

One good example of such a song was written by Ruben Blades, called the “poet of the people.” A native of Panama, Blades wrote a ballad to memorialize Father Antonio Romero, an archbishop who had been assassinated while conducting a Catholic mass in El Salvador. Romero had been critical of the right-wing government’s atrocities in the civil war there, and he publicly championed the rights of the poor. In “Suenan las campanas otra vez” (“The bells toll again”), Blades sang of the archbishop’s sacrifice, a harbinger to Pope Francis’ recent actions to declare Romero a martyr, almost 35 years later.

Here a few lines from Blades’ song:

Suenan las campanas uno, dos tres (The bells toll one, two three)

Por el Padre Antonio y su monaguillo Andrés… (For Father Antonio and his altar boy Andrés)

El Padre condena la violencia (The Father condemns the violence)

Sabe por experiencia que no es la solución. (He knows from experience that it is not the answer.)

Les habla de amor y de justicia… (He speaks of love and of justice…)

Antonio cayó, hostia en mano y sin saber por qué (Antonio fell, the host in hand, and not knowing why)

Andrés se murió a su lado sin conocer a Pelé… (Andrés died at his side without meeting Pelé…)

Vamos, que nos llaman (Let’s go, they’re calling us)

Para celebrar (to celebrate)

Nuestra Identidad (our identity)

Porque un pueblo unido (Because a united people)

No, no, jamás será vencido… (Will never, ever be defeated…)

Suena las campanas (The bells toll)

El mundo va a cambiar. (The world is going to change.)

Blades ends with his musical message with hope. It echoes across time and cultural boundaries.

In class, “this song can be approached in a variety of ways,” explains Kallemeyn.  “The cultural and historical setting can be explored through student research and discussion as well as the background and life of Archbishop Romero and Ruben Blades… Vocabulary related to themes of love and justice, as well as religious terms, run throughout the song. Verb tenses vary as well,” making the song a well-rounded lesson on Latin American culture, history and language.

“Learning goes deeper when you are out of your own world and in another.”

This method of teaching language through lyrical and musical messaging has been a hit and an inspiration for Kallemeyn. After all, what college student would not want to listen to somewhat contemporary music in class?

“I discovered poets I was not acquainted with and found new singer/songwriters from all over Latin America, too. I have a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the New Song Movement and the cantautores who tell their unofficial story of struggle… Learning goes deeper when you are out of your own world and in another. And that is a benefit of a sabbatical, not just for me but for my students, too.”

Sylvia Kallemeyn is an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Hope College.

The Time in the In-Between: Thriving in Transition to Hope

The time between high school graduation and college enrollment is fraught with excitement and anticipation for almost every incoming freshman. It’s also a time filled with more questions and some anxiety, too. “How do I know the exact classes I should be taking?” “What will my college professors expect of me?” “Who will be my friends?” “Where do I get my ID photo taken again?”

Each question is valid and not uncommon nor unexpected to be asked during that time in the “in-between;” those 12 weeks from May 1 (enrollment deposit day) to the end of August (new-student-orientation weekend). And it is exactly for that time period that Hope College has been developing new summer initiatives, dovetailed with its already established fall first-year programming, to help incoming students transition to college.

New student advising
Dr. Chad Carlson, assistant professor of kinesiology, conducts new student advising.

Since the summer of 2014, Hope has instituted – under the direction of both Dr. Ryan White, director of advising, and Chris Bohle, associate director of student development – two programs that provide greater communication and support to soon-to-be Hope freshmen. New Student Advising Days are half-day summer campus events that are open to all freshman and prepare students for their academic transition to college by facilitating class registration and introducing students to academic advisors, other staff, and programs. The Summer Bridge Program is an invitation-only, living-and-learning experience that supports those who would benefit for earlier exposure to college life. Students stay a week on campus in mid-August, take a one-credit college writing course, experience cultural aspects of campus life, have meetings with peer and faculty mentors, and engage key institutional personnel and offices.

Each experience helps incoming students become more academically and culturally prepared for their first day at Hope.

Summer Bridge
From left to right, Dr. Marla Lunderberg, Dr. Ryan White, senior Alexis-Simone Rivers, Chris Bohle, and junior Diana Cortes

Each experience helps incoming students become more academically and culturally prepared for their first day at Hope.

Bohle and White, along with Dr. Marla Lunderberg, associate professor of English and director of Hope’s FOCUS program, and Alexis-Simone Rivers, student-director of First Year Transitions, were recently selected, after being vetted through a competitive, blind-review application process, to present about these Hope programs at the 35th annual National Conference on the First Year Experience at the University of South Carolina. While they are quick to explain that both of these initiatives are not novel to higher education, the way that they’ve been constructed at Hope is.

“We use current Hope students to build and support these programs,” says White. “That’s what makes us unique. We did not use a top-down approach with administrators only planning out each program and saying, ‘this is how it is going to be.’ We wanted peer-leaders. We wanted our current students walking alongside incoming freshmen. That is really the Hope way. Our students are good leaders so we let them lead.”

‘We listen to the concerns of the students and identify how we can best help them or direct them to different resources on campus,” adds Rivers, a senior international studies major. “We’re not only a director or leader to these students, but many times we often become an unofficial mentor once the school year begins. That personal mentoring connection with the students is how I believe student directors make the biggest difference…. Also, our roles as student directors are very influential in the fact that incoming students are able to see how we were once in their position and now we are leaders on campus.”

“College is one of those things every incoming freshman has not experienced yet so they don’t know what to expect,” says Bohle. “A lot of times new students don’t know what to ask. With our summer initiatives and other first-year experiences, we want to answer some of their unspoken questions and help to normalize an understanding of expectations. “

Peer-advisors, alongside First-Year Seminar faculty, talk incoming freshman through several aspects of class selection and general education, as well as major requirements during three New Student Advising Days in June. The Hope students relay classroom experiences that were beneficial for them and could be for new students, too. “The big thing about new student advising is we find incoming freshmen are leaving less anxious about registration and feeling more connected to campus, and our students are a big reason for that,” says White.

IMG_3317
Hope freshman Andrea Garcia, a participant in the 2015 Summer Bridge program

For the Summer Bridge, Bohle says Hope students who work with the program are primary points of contact between those enrolled – 20 the first summer and 30 this summer – and the teaching faculty. “With Summer Bridge, our current students function as RAs (resident assistants) in Cook Hall and TAs (teaching assistants) in class; they give extended tours of Hope and Holland; they serve as peer mentors and work side by side with new students on a service project; they debrief the new students each night to hear what they are learning or concerned about and bring it back to us,” says Bohle. “Hope students are there, walking through the experience with Summer Bridge students in a way that we (faculty and staff) cannot.”

Each summer initiative is a forward-looking, Hope-strength-based experience that leads into bigger things to come, namely, Hope’s four-day freshman orientation. Orientation is held just prior to the first day of fall classes. Additional year-long academic and cultural support is to come on campus, especially from First Year Seminar faculty and in programs such as Phelps Scholars, Day 1, and Time to Serve. But in the time in the in-between, incoming students are already having meaningful experiences preparing them to be full-fledged college students in the fall.

“College is one of those things every incoming freshman has not experienced yet so they don’t know what to expect,” says Bohle. “A lot of times new students don’t know what to ask. With our summer initiatives and other first-year experiences, we want to answer some of their unspoken questions and help to normalize an understanding of expectations. Across the board, we feel we’re doing that. These summer programs really have been positive things.”

Laugh Just for the Health of It

It sounds like something Benjamin Franklin would have said, though it already had biblical roots (see Proverbs 17:22). Patch Adams meted it out in large dosages. Comedian Cocoa Brown claims it saved her life.

Now, some research has indeed proven that “laughter is the best medicine.”

JDibble
Dr. Jayson Dibble recently presented “Humor: Why Bother?” at Hope College as part of the fifth annual LaughFest

So said Dr. Jayson Dibble, an associate professor of communication at Hope, who gave LaughFest an academic shot in the arm on campus this week when he was given a mic to not so much be funny – though it turns out he’s a pretty punny guy – as to teach about why being funny matters.

It was Dibble’s third year teach-performing for the annually organized event, now in its fifth year, mostly staged in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and stocked with nationally recognizable stand-up and improv artists for 10 days. The event was created to honor the late Gilda Radner as well as to benefit Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids, a place where free emotional healthcare is provided to those fighting and smiling through any kind of cancer. LaughFest brings together diverse audiences every March “to honor laughter as an essential part of emotional health and well-being.”

That’s a motto and mission Dibble prescribes to, as well. Besides making us socially, intellectually, and emotionally well, “humor directly changes our physiology,” he says.

Laughter has been proven to relieve muscle tension, help release larger quantities of endorphins – the happy hormone – and it can even mitigate physical pain, according to one study. “But there’s a caveat. Its pain reducing effects occur after your exposure to humor,” said Dibble. “You’re not going to feel great as soon as you fire up Netflix (in order to laugh). You’re going to have to wait a little while.”

“We don’t have to train ourselves to laugh,” says Dibble. “We were all already born with funny bones. We just have to choose to use it.”

Another study Dibble cited showed that humor can lower one’s blood pressure… but only if you’re a woman. “If you’re a guy, not so much. From this correlational study where men and women self-identified themselves with having a good sense of humor, men who thought they were funny guys usually had a Type A personality and higher blood pressure. The women in the study had lower blood pressure levels.”

Really? Why? If laughter is universal, knowing no cultural bounds, shouldn’t it have universally positive effects regardless of gender? Perhaps, but what these researchers posit from this study is that there are gender differences in the ways women and men use their humor and thus there are differences in the ways it affects their blood pressure and stress. “Men, on average, tend to have more aggressive, sarcastic, or “bathroom” humor. Women, on average, use their humor to be more inclusive and accepting,” says Dibble who also teaches about and conducts comparative humor studies between Americans and Brits during a May Term called Humor, Communication,and Culture in Liverpool, England.

As for children, a study shows anxiety levels were lowered for those about to undergo extensive medical procedures when clowns showed up with their parents and doctors in the ER. Without a clown to clown around with, children’s anxiety levels went up.

“Though clowns can creep some people out, like me,” says Dibble, “for most of these kids, clowns made a difference in their health.”

Universal, free, contagious, and widely available, humor and its resulting laughter provide a myriad of positive effects in people and in all animals really. Even healthy chimps love to horse around, and, well, horses do, too.

“We don’t have to train ourselves to laugh,” says Dibble. “We were all already born with funny bones. We just have to choose to use them.”

So, go ahead. Laugh just for the health of it.

Hope Numbers in the News

Recently, a Holland Sentinel new story featured the phenomenal work and large sums of external funds secured by Hope faculty for undergraduate research.  And the numbers, and people, are impressive.

“Hope’s Research Footprint: $9.9 in Use for Faculty, Undergrad Studies” highlights Dr. Courtney Peckens and her research project on sound quality in the new Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts while also making note of these facts:

  • In the past decade, Hope College faculty have garnered 405 research grants totaling $32.77 million.
  • On average, Hope faculty research and scholarships draw in $2 million in external funding annually.
  • For the 2015-16 fiscal year that ends June 30, Hope’s faculty have secured $1.5 million out of the $5 million in external research grants that they’ve requested — and are on track to hit the $2 million mark again.
  • Grants come from between 30 and 50 sources that range in all sizes from $5,000 to half a million dollars.

 

In this story, Karen Nordell Pearson, associate dean of research and scholarship at Hope, summarily noted this about the strength of Hope’s research agendas:

“All of our 244 full-time faculty are involved in work as scholars, artists and teachers. Their scholarly work varies from what might be considered traditional ‘research’ such as laboratory discoveries to publishing books and articles on wide ranges of topics to creative works that artists, musicians and writers produce… Faculty are amazingly adept in figuring out how undergraduates can contribute even in those circumstances. I give them so much credit for figuring out how to integrate undergrads.”

Hopeful Health for Kids in Holland

The statistical warning signs about obesity and overweight rates for American children have been scaring health providers and educators for three decades now, but little has improved in recent years. Since the mid-1980s when tracking of body mass index (BMI) numbers began, obesity rates have doubled for children and quadrupled for teens. If those stats aren’t sobering enough, here’s one more:

More than one-third of children or adolescents are either overweight or obese in this country and those children are more likely to remain overweight or obese as adults, putting them at higher risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and some cancers.

Three Hope professors, though, are doing their part to help reverse the girth of our nation.

FOF.Morrison
Dr. Kyle Morrison, assistant professor of kinesiology and director of Foundations of Fitness, inside a dedicated space in the Dow Center where even the wall color was selected to motivate children to exercise.

“Foundations of Fitness,” a multidisciplinary program that provides Holland area families with age-appropriate structured exercise and lifestyle education, is a Hope College-based childhood wellness endeavor led by Dr. Kyle Morrison, assistant professor of kinesiology, with the assistance of Dr. Steven Smith and Dr. Mark Northuis, both professors of kinesiology. The program started in the fall of 2014 to help reduce childhood obesity and overweight percentages locally and has been funded with about $250,000 in grants from Herman Miller Cares over its two-year lifetime.

Working with 20 different families on average over 10-week periods each semester and summer, Morrison and his colleagues use exercise and education toward instilling the benefits of a healthier lifestyle upon those involved. Children ages 5 to 12 (plus their siblings) are referred by physicians and school nurses. First assessed before enrollment, they then engage in 90 minutes of varied physical activity and motor skill development once each week. Meanwhile, their parents hear lessons from Morrison and other college experts about nutrition, sleep, screen-time, stress, and motivational and behavioral habits.  Right alongside the program’s three professors, whose research specialty is pediatric wellness, are at least six to eight Hope pre-health-science students who assist with activities and become positive, active role models, salubriously living into young children’s  lives.

FOF.Group1
Hope students Jorgie Watson (in orange) and Michelle Hance (in light blue) exercise alongside the children in Foundations of Fitness.

“In many ways, we are going back to basics for the kids and their families,” Morrison says of the program’s methodology. “We want to improve kids’ confidence in fundamental motor skills, and we want parents to know more about diet and healthy lifestyle habits. But more importantly, we want to expose them all to a love of lifelong activity.”

In the process, Morrison hopes of a wholesome paradigm shift, too. “When kids in the program are asked ‘why do you think you are here?’ we hope to move them away from the ‘to get skinny’ answer toward the ‘to get healthy’ answer. This is not about numbers – weight or BMI or obesity rates; this is about overall health.”

FOF.HANKINSON
Recent Hope graduate Michael Hankinson, right, who returns to the program as a volunteer, works on “planking” with a young participant.

Curing the obesity epidemic is a complicated issue. It is not simply about getting kids and their parents to exercise more and eat less. It is also about a fixing a reliance on fast and processed food at home and in restaurants; about cutting back on television and other screen-based time; about a myriad of socio-economic factors that can hinder a healthy life; about an individual’s chemical make-up and genetics; about sitting down to eat a meal together instead of on-the-run; and, it’s even about childhood stress which also leads to weight gain. While kids who are obese or overweight have systemic health concerns, they are at risk for social discrimination and low self-esteem, too.

“We have a no bullying clause in Foundations of Fitness,” says Morrison. “This program is meant to be a safe place for kids to feel and to get healthy. And one other thing we teach them is that it’s okay to fail. They learn that they are supported when they succeed and even if they don’t. That is important for them to experience and to remember, especially after they leave this program.”

“We want to improve kids’ confidence in fundamental motor skills, and we want parents to know more about diet and healthy lifestyle habits. But more importantly, we want to expose them all to a love of lifelong activity.”

A dedicated room in the college’s Dow Center – painted teal-green-aqua that research has shown to be one of the three most motivational colors in the human-eye color palette – includes unique exer-gaming equipment such as a multi-player dance game and an Xbox system that requires the user to pedal a bike to keep the video game powered. More traditional equipment is there too, such as age-appropriate elliptical machines.

FOF.Group2
Group warmup for Foundations of Fitness participants at the Dow Center.

But kids being kids, full-court games are what they like most, such as Pac-Man tag, a game played along the lines on a Dow court, or, freeze tag with a twist: skipping, hopping, or galloping to tag and if caught, the kids must complete five sit-ups or push-ups before they are released back into the game.

“It has been an awesome opportunity to get to know different children and their families in our community,” says senior Jorgie Watson, an exercise science major who has been involved with the program since it started. “I love to see the improvement within the children, not only in their appearance but in their confidence and physical fitness. Many of them can’t run around the Dow track more than two laps (when they first start), but at the end, they run-walking 10 laps which is really awesome to see.”

FOF.Campbell
Hope student Caitlyn Campbell, measuring cups in hand, discusses serving size with a Foundation of Fitness participant.

“Several of these families are receiving advice on healthy living that they would have never gotten the chance to learn otherwise,” explains junior Caitlyn Campbell, an exercise science major who plans to do graduate work in nutrition. “On top of that, the kids get an active social outlet where they feel comfortable and safe enough to exercise and learn new sports with their peers. Seeing the kids become progressively more confident with themselves is what kept me coming back to work with the program for each term. The quantitative health data we have collected further demonstrates the positive changes this program is making. But, our proudest health outcome is their increased quality of life.”

To encourage a child’s continued fitness once his or her participation in the program has ended, a four-month Dow Center membership is given to a family who attends at least eight of the 10 Foundations of Fitness sessions.  Coming back to the Dow provides more activity options for the family to enjoy, like swimming, basketball, running, racquetball, and various exercise equipment. And Hope student mentors continue working with their mentees one-on-one during their Dow membership phase.

“The quantitative health data we have collected further demonstrates the positive changes this program is making. But, our proudest health outcome is their increased quality of life.”

Morrison’s vision would be to establish an even more comprehensive center for childhood enrichment to impact even more fully the wellness of the Holland area (so far close to 100 have participated in Foundations) because “we have an obligation to our community and we want to be supportive of each other. But that is a dream that is much further down the road.”

For now then, Foundations of Fitness is making a holistic, healthy difference right where it is, one young life at a time.