Humans of Syria and Japan

This year’s Critical Issues Symposium – opening today on Hope’s campus – addresses “Engaging the Middle East.” Professor Megumi Hirayama of Meiji Gakuin University (MGU) in Tokyo has been doing just that for more than decade.

Professor Megumi Hirayama of Meiji Gakuin University, Hope’s sister school in Tokyo, Japan, discussed her Syrian experience and her “Stop the Killing in Syria” campaign recently on campus.

Hirayama, a visiting professor at Hope since last fall who specializes in public health and taught a comparative social development class, is a global citizen in her own right. Her passport has been stamped by over 50 countries; she has studied 16 different languages and speaks three fluently; her early career included stints as a health education officer for both the United Nations and World Health Organization in the Caribbean and Africa. She also started six non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to medically aid developing countries.

The Middle East has been Hirayama’s focus since 2005, having visited Syria 12 times, taking MGU students with her on six occasions before the civil war started in 2010. There, they researched on-going water contamination issues while engaging in home stays, making new Syrian friends in the process.

Hirayama wants Americans to know this: We are not the only ones worried about the Middle East. Other world citizens are, too.

She has always wanted her students to know and see and feel a reality of Syria that takes them beyond what the media shows, beyond conflict and crisis, to remember kind farmers and laborers who just want peace.

“I wish the war will end soon, and Syrians will smile as they did before,” said MGU graduate Yutaro Takemori, who studied water-borne diseases under Hirayama’s direction in Syria in 2009. “We should not forget this country and its kind people,” added Mayuko Hagari, another MGU graduate who traveled to Syria with Hirayama.

Utaya Village with Children
Professor Megumi Hirayama with children in Utaya, Syria. Photo courtesy of Megumi Hirayama (2009)

A sorrowful but hopeful nod comes from Hirayama when she hears those words. Her dedicated message of international care clearly struck heart cords and brainwaves. She has always wanted her students to know and see and feel a reality of Syria that takes them beyond what the media shows, beyond conflict and crisis to remember kind farmers and laborers who just want peace. Her current “Stop the Killing in Syria” campaign will continue in that vein when she takes it to the G7 Summit in Ise-shima, Japan, this June.

“This is not a true civil war (in Syria),” opines Hirayama. “It is an international war. So many foreigners are involved and private companies and their weapons are coming in from outside Syria to fight there. I never thought this war would last such a long time.”

syria landscape
Phlox blooming in an olive grove near a suburb of Aleppo, Syria, near the Turkey border. Photo courtesy of Rohei Saito (March 2009)

With photos of Syrian people and sights spread out in front of her recently, Hirayama looks at their stories and remembers more of her own: her former research assistant who she did not hear from for months but later found was living in Sweden after using all his money and nearly dying to escape the country; her affection for Syrian friends and acquaintances whose whereabouts are now unknown.

Sorrow and hope. That’s what those pictures display to Hirayama. And us, too. Sorrow remembering the way Syria once was. Hope for the way it can be again.

Young peace-sign girl in the Yarmouk (Syria) Palestinian Refugee Camp. Photo courtesy of Hirotoshi Muraki (January 2009)

CFL and SHI: Partners in Ideas, Innovation and Leadership

A unique and collaborative partnership between Spectrum Health Innovations (SHI) in Grand Rapids and Hope College’s Center for Faithful Leadership (CFL) is providing opportunities for both parties to glean the benefits that any good partnership seeks to achieve: combining ideas and labor toward reaching desired outcomes. For professionals at SHI, the objective is to create technically-feasible and market-desirable health care products that meet the needs of patients and clinicians alike. For students at Hope, the goals are leadership development and experiential learning. It’s proving to be a win-win association.

“A liberal arts education is a journey that exposes students to different ways of thinking, to different possibilities in education and life.”

CFL students and mentors and SHI ideators and project managers have been working together since 2014 to create better health-care services in interdisciplinary ways. It is this convergence of teaching, learning, innovation, and scholarship that makes CFL and SHI perfect partners. SHI provides the ideas and technical input; CFL students provide the labor and processes to idea validation. To date, more than 70 students with majors in accounting, communication, management, philosophy, engineering, religion and computer science have tackled 10 challenges. The most recent include a schedule software project, a neonatal ETT (Endo-Tracheal Tube) holder project, and a device to load a wheelchair into the trunk of car. Each melds multiple perspectives and breaks down disciplinary boundaries—a demolishing of silos, if you will, that results in these partners doing work on one big idea farm.

A Hope professor’s effort to save his students money has led to a national award. Dr. Steve VanderVeen, professor of management and director of the Center for Faithful Leadership, is one of only eight professors nationwide recognized through the Faculty Recognition Textbook Scholarship Contest coordinated by the Used Textbook Association. He was honored for reducing students’ book-buying costs by choosing to use an earlier edition of a textbook that he feels continues to be just as relevant in the material it presents - pg 17
Dr. Steven VanderVeen, director of Hope’s Center for Faithful Leadership and professor of management

“A liberal arts education is a journey that exposes students to different ways of thinking, to different possibilities in education and life,” says Dr. Steven VanderVeen, director of CFL and professor of management. “Our partnership with SHI is about just that. It gives students from several different majors experiences to discern and develop their gifts and calling on their timelines. They get to learn this in college, not after they graduate. This is what drives CFL.”

The scheduling software project is headed up by Ben Schipper, a communication major and 2015 December Hope grad. Schipper and 12 others—professionals from SHI, CFL mentor Jim Cnossen, along with economics and computer science students—are working to eliminate the time demands associated with manually scheduling patients for numerous specialist appointments for in-patient rehabilitation. Department managers are currently spending hours using an old-school spreadsheet methodology to schedule patients’ therapies, but the new software will automatically generate a patient’s schedule instead. The goal of its creation is to save valuable staff time, time that could be spent otherwise caring for Spectrum Health patients.  Numerous months, meetings, and program iterations later, with assistance from Dr. Ryan McFall of Hope’s computer science department, Schipper and his team are close to auditioning a finished product within the next several weeks.

Ben at SHI with CPSC team
Ben Schipper (standing) leads a Report-Out meeting at SHI

Meanwhile, the neonatal ETT holder team, with assistance from Dr. Roger Veldman of Hope’s engineering department, hopes to debut a prototype by the end of this semester while the wheelchair-loading device team just got started on customer discovery research.

“Hope students have great dedication to their projects,” says Lori  Henry, a project manager at Spectrum Health Innovations. “They are motivated to have an impact to create real-life solutions. The highlight of the semester for me is hearing them present their findings at the report-out (a culminating presentation). I see their passion and it makes me excited about what we do.”

Hope is one of four colleges and universities in the region that partner with SHI. Each semester, VanderVeen meets with SHI leaders to determine if CFL will renew or exit the partnership. To each partners’ delight, the computer science and engineering departments have become directly involved with SHI, too.

“In the end, these collaborations are all about patients and people.”

“Regardless of the project,” says Scott Daigger, manager at SHI, “we focus on a couple goals. We want to work together with our college teams to find viable solutions to the ideas we have. That is foremost for us. We also want to help solve bigger problems that could benefit health care as a whole.”

“We’re educating students so they know what their gifts are,” says VanderVeen of CFL goals. “How do you know if you are good at something? You get involved and find out. It is the discernment of gifts and calling, alongside leadership integrity, that this partnership is all about.”

While many projects fail to move from idea to finished solution—supporting the statistic that less than 10% of all new notions actually see a validated end—the CFL-SHI partnership provides a 100% great experience rate for all parties involved.

Concludes Lori Henry, “In the end, these collaborations are all about patients and people.”

Flint Water Crisis in the Round

This past Monday night in Maas Auditorium, 13 bottles of water sat on a long table, each provided for one of the 13 people preparing to speak on an interdisciplinary panel about the Flint water crisis. One container of water, though, was not being consumed, nor would it be. Displayed at the center of the dais, a mason jar filled with water from Flint, Michigan, looking as benign and similar as the water in the other 13 bottles, was about to be examined from political, sociological, psychological, historical, scientific, artistic, ethical, and personal perspectives. Though the water in the jar appeared clear, the water crisis and its fallout and solution can seem anything but that.

Though the water in the jar appeared clear, the water crisis and its fallout and solution can seem anything but that.

IMG_2537Organized and implemented by Dr. Julie Kipp’s women’s and gender studies keystone class, the event gave an opportunity for a large audience to consider what has happened in Flint as well as providing a challenge for all to get involved and do something appropriate within their discipline or interest. The panel, made up of one student, 11 professors, and one president, discussed the very tragic, sometimes complex, and always upsetting issues revolving around the high levels of lead in Flint water and those who drank that water for over a year. Delivering their expertise from their various points of view within a five-minute time limit each, the panel continued to cast light upon light upon light onto a problem that has fallen out of the nation’s glare… for the time being anyway. This communal time of reflection also gave hope for understanding next steps in Flint.

“When you think about what a liberal arts college does best, it is learning how to think systemically and critically about complex things where the problems simply can’t be understood through a single lens. It requires us to think in the round.”

Katlyn Koegel, far left, speaks as part of the 13-member Flint Water Crisis panel.

Speaking from personal experience, sophomore Katlyn Koegel, a Flint native, shared several stories about people she knows from home who are struggling and afraid—a small, thirsty boy who asked for bottled water from her last summer, a woman who may lose her business due negative media attention that has driven customers away, and a pastor who paid a $900 bill for water he was not even using. “What has been most heartbreaking for me is this dichotomy between breaking news and broken structures,” said Koegel. “A lot of facts and individual stories have gone down a chasm between the two.”

Historically speaking, Dr. Fred Johnson, declared that Flint has its proud roots in Native American origins and the founding of a General Motors plant there in 1908. “And many of you may know, it was the site of the 1936-37 GM sit-down strike which basically brought the UAW (United Auto Workers) to prominence, making it a major instrument in the labor movement.” Now, the city’s heritage is  being viewed only through a microscope created by this recent history.

“All politics are local.”

Politically speaking, Dr. Annie Dandavati, reminded the audience that “it’s important for all of us to be educated voters. Even though we sometimes feel that our voices are falling on deaf ears, it’s important to know about issues no matter where they originate—in the state capitol, nationally or globally. All politics are local.”

Sociologically speaking, Dr. Aaron Franken and Dr. Debra Swanson showed that race and socio-economic status are key to making sense of what is happening in Flint. “When looking at kids in Flint, here’s some points that are important and highlight social processes for health: One, if socio-economic status is linked to health, and two, decreased educational attainment is a key link to lower socio-economic status, and three, lead poisoning manifests itself in behavioral changes and in cognitive ability changes and thus a link to decreased educational attainment, and, four, sizable portions of residents (in Flint) don’t leave the area – so residential non-migration – then we’re going to have a potential geographic health issue with a very long memory in Flint,” said Franzen.

“This is a demographic of poor, black moms with kids who get no political attention.”

In 2013, the median household income in Flint was about half of that than in the rest of the state. The state median income is $43,000; in Flint it is about $23,000. Approximately 22% have a household income of less than $10,000 a year. Forty-one percent of those living in Flint are below the poverty line, 56% of the population is black, and 75% of the households are single-parent homes. “This is a demographic of poor, black moms with kids who get no political attention,” says Swanson. And yet those women have organized protests at the state capitol in Lansing as well as a movement with Lead Safe America Foundation, bringing attention to the crisis on Twitter with over three million tweets in two hours on February 4, using the hashtag, #StandWithFlint.

Psychologically speaking, Dr. Carrie Bredow offered one good news/bad news scenario: “We know that certain things can ameliorate some of the effects of lead poisoning (such as behavioral and cognitive disorders) though it’s not reversible. But based on the research, through things like good nutrition, having high-quality early childhood education and intervention, and consistent medical care, the level of its effects can be influenced. But these are the same things that children in Flint don’t have access to. So this is something that needs to be poured into in terms of how we stop this from affecting people in Flint inter-generationally.”

Scientifically speaking, Dr. Joanne Stewart and Dr. Graham Peaslee explained how lead got into the Flint water supply in the first place. “When they switched from (using) Lake Huron water to Flint River water (to save the city money), they had no corrosion plan in place (to keep the pipes from leeching lead into the water). That was one of the real shocking things that happened,” said Stewart. “It depends on which house you’re in (when looking at lead levels),” added Peaslee. “Some people have PVC pipes and no lead, others have lead and more lead in their pipes. It depends house to house what the effect was.”

“It’s comforting to suppose only terrifically terrible or malicious people can be responsible for these things but often it is only ordinary, everyday vice that leads to great evil.”

Morally speaking, Dr. Heidi Giannini enlightened with this: “One thing I think the Flint water crisis illustrates and what our response to it should bear in mind is that it is very hard to be good. However, that is no excuse for failing. The crisis in Flint illustrates at least one way it is hard to be good: we form bad habits (like laziness or self-interest) because most of the time they seem like they are not that big of a deal. When we foster these ordinary, run-of-the-mill bad habits, we foster the opportunity for great evil. We like to think that there is extraordinary vice underlying the horrible moral wrongs of what happened in Flint. It’s comforting to suppose only terrifically terrible or malicious people can be responsible for these things but often it is only ordinary, everyday vice that leads to great evil.”

Dr. Charles Green addressed environmental racism, citing evidence that shows more middle-class black families live in polluted areas than poor white families do. “Let me be clear: race is a real factor here… Black kids are three times more likely than white kids to have asthma (due to living in areas with poor air quality) and four times more likely to die from it. The environmental problems that we have addressed in this country over the last 30-40 years have largely benefitting the white population, and the environmental problems we have not addressed have largely impacted people of color.”

“We have to listen. We have to let our neighbors (in Flint) know that we’re here, not to own or claim the crisis as our own but rather to try to understand it.”

From an artistic standpoint, Rob Kenagy and Dr. Katherine Sullivan revealed how art and activism is giving people a news lens through which to view Flint. “The slam poetry coming out of Flint is hot…It’s important to remember that that art is made by real people,” said Kenagy, “and it’s just not something you can click past. There is a real voice behind it. We as readers have a responsibility (to hear it and see it), especially those of us from privileged spaces. We have to actually accept the trauma and invite it into our lives. We have to listen. We have to let our neighbors (in Flint) know that we’re here, not to own or claim the crisis as our own but rather to try to understand it.” Poetry and art is yet another way to do just that.

Finally, President John Knapp summed up the event this way: “Big problems don’t lend themselves to simple, small solutions. What I’ve really appreciated about this evening as I’ve listened to my colleagues here is that we’ve not only examined this problem from the perspective of art, philosophy, poetry, but also sociology, history, and political science. We’ve talked about biological and medical concerns; we’ve talked about psychological matters and even got into chemistry. Every one of those is important, and more, to really understand the nature of the problem. And what I’ve described is what we are about in the liberal arts at Hope. When you think about what a liberal arts college does best, it is learning how to think systemically and critically about complex things where the problems simply can’t be understood through a single lens. It requires us to think in the round.”

Breaks Away: Dede Johnston

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.

Spanish-speakers say “feliz.” The Japanese say 幸福, pronounced “kofuku.” In English, “happy” is the word. The delivery may change from language to language, but it is universally agreed upon that happiness means one thing: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. So, it would seem, happy elucidation remains the same no matter where one lives – whether in Argentina, Honduras, Japan, or the United States, right? Well, maybe not. That’s what Dr. Dede Johnston, professor of communication, is finding out.

Dr. Dede Johnston, professor of communication, happy at Hope and in the world

Happiness is a choice, psychologists say, but the ways we choose to be happy and how we express that joy can vary from the grandiose to the sublime across cultures. Taking a portion of her yearlong sabbatical to study happy emotions found in thousands of pictorial images of people in six countries, Johnston is quick to relay that what may seem simple to define is actually complex. Happiness does not have one common expression, though we usually think a simple smile will do. Instead, it is individually and culturally discovered and defined. For one person, happiness is simply a sunny day, but for another, it is a high-paying job indicative of a successful career. The individualized nature of the happiness definition, then, makes for a myriad of meanings that are multiplied again by the number of cultures expressing it, setting off a compare-and-contrast exercise of multi-national magnitude. So far, Johnston’s initial findings have been happily enthralling.

“In America, we’re either happy or unhappy. There seems to be little in-between. We also tend to experience happiness as a state of high arousal, or excitement for example,” explains Johnston. “In Japan, happiness is expressed in quieter terms. The Japanese seem to focus on things that Americans take for granted. They are happy for their noodles at lunch; they are happy for their legs. In addition, the Japanese report being simultaneously happy and unhappy, a kind of melancholy or nostalgia. Japanese people are more complex in their metaphoric constructions of happiness, and American people are more complex in their nuanced range and expression of feelings associated with happiness.”

The pursuit of global ‘happyness’ definitions happens in a dedicated research space in the Martha Miller Center.

For this massive, qualitative, cross-cultural happiness research project, Johnston joined forces with Dr. Rika Hanamitsu, a linguistics professor from Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, whom Johnston had worked with for two years while Hanamitsu took her sabbatical leave at Hope. Johnston enlisted research participants while visiting Uruguay, Argentina and Chile on her peripatetic sabbatical. Hope senior, Jean Luc Miralda, a native of Honduras, secured participants there, and Hanamitsu signed up Japanese contributors. The two professors asked those involved to take photos of themselves, five times during a single day, when they experienced happiness. The photo-takers then had to write a prompted narrative response about each of those moments in time. Looking at images of 2,600 different people from four age groups (college-aged to elderly) means Johnston, Hanamitu, and their three Hope research student-assistants have been doing a tremendous amount of story translation and coding of thousands of images. It also means this wide-reaching work is uncovering an exciting, glad array of ways to be happy. And in April, those Hope student-assistants and their professor hope to present the group’s preliminary findings at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research in Asheville, North Carolina.

Not one to allow one topic or continent to confine her sabbatical to-do list for too long, Johnston also took a trip Berlin to develop an interdisciplinary – literature, communication and political science – conjoined course with colleagues in Slovakia and Lebanon; traveled to South Africa to develop a study-tour on “Narratives of Peace and Conflict in Post-Apartheid South Africa;” and, she also co-authored and published an article about another cross-cultural research project, again with Hanamitsu. This time Johnston looked at global exposure and global perceptions of 1,360 college-aged students in China, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and the U.S. Their work can be read in the Journal of Intercultural Communication.

“I felt it was a year of good productivity for me,” Johnston concludes. “I learned more Spanish, met wonderful people during home stays. Sabbatical to me means creativity, a chance to move ideas — and sometimes I have too many — toward accomplishments.”

Living out of a backpack for a year, researching about global communication issues, even cleaning up her Martha Miller Center office while on sabbatical: that makes Dede Johnston very happy.

Dr. Deirdre Johnston is a professor in the Department of Communication at Hope College.

Breaks Away: Jonathan Peterson

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.

Whether in the field at the Michigan-based AuSable Institute of Environmental Studies (AIES), or in a lab at the prestigious Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), or in the classroom of a Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) interdisciplinary program, Dr. Jonathan Peterson spent much of his year-long sabbatical in 2014-15 fully convinced of this:

Things in life are interesting and important to the degree that they relate to other things because, basically, most things in life—ideas and people—are connected, if not immediately then eventually. This credo makes sense to him back at Hope, too. The interdependence of subjects and people on each other is a fundamental aspect of a Christian, liberal arts education, after all.

Dr. Jonathan Peterson in his Schaap Science Center lab located on the campus of Hope College.

Peterson, the Lavern and Betty DePree VanKley Professor of the Geology and Environmental Science, and a firm believer that all life-matters are interrelated, likes it that way.

“Taken all together, my entire sabbatical was rejuvenating as a Christian and a scholar because those two things are not separate, just as most things in life are not separate. Most everything goes together in practice and not just theory,” says Peterson. “I was called to be a Christian scholar in two different places (AIES and ORNL) last year, and I’m called to be both here at Hope.”

“Taken all together, my entire sabbatical was rejuvenating as a Christian and a scholar because those two things are not separate, just as most things in life are not separate. Most everything goes together in practice and not just theory.”

Two AuSable teaching experiences during the summers of 2014 and 2015 bookended Peterson’s full-year sabbatical leave, with his time at Oak Ridge in the middle. Located in Mancelona, Michigan, and supported by a consortium of Christian colleges, AIES is both field-based and faith-based as teachers and students investigate matters of environmental consequence with a Christian perspective. “Students and staff at AuSable are passionate about Christian environmentalism,” Peterson says.  “It is a place that connects science and faith with themes of stewardship and conservationism in caring for God’s world.”

At ORNL, Peterson’s break-away shifted to intense research.  Though he was the resident director of the GLCA Oak Ridge Science Semester in the fall, he conducted his own research for the full academic year, too, using cutting edge technology at a world-class facility while collaborating with world-class scientists. ORNL, first established in the early 1940s as part of the U.S. government’s Manhattan Project, is the Department of Energy’s largest facility conducting research to find “transformative solutions to compelling problems in energy and security.” Research productivity is critical there as individual ORNL scientists—well over 3,000 in more than 100 disciplines—published their findings six to eight times each year.

Peterson’s research analyzes how antibiotics breakdown in the presence of titanium oxide nano-particles. In and of itself, this could seem like a subject highly obscure and literally minute. Yet, it is the interrelated effects of these nano-particles and drug contaminants in our environment that may have implications for human health and medicine. Very small amounts of antibiotics are present in natural waters, Peterson points out, originating in part from the livestock industry and sewage treatment plants.

“And titanium oxide nano-particles are also present and are very reactive and very small. They are used in all kinds of products— sunscreens, cosmetics, paints, adhesives, tire treads, even powdered sugar donuts. That is how they enter the environment,” explains Peterson. “I want to know how the nano-particles break down the drugs or transport them in the water.”

Because here is his research’s interconnected bottom-line toward the greater good:  The fate of these antibiotics in the environment is a key piece of information toward understanding the spread of antibiotic resistance in human and veterinary medicine.

So far, results from the research show that titanium oxide nano-particles interact with drugs in a variety of different ways. Some antibiotics undergo significant degradation while other break into fragments. Some of those fragments are transported by the nano-particles, and other are destroyed. “These results are significant,” says Peterson. “The next step is to determine the rate, or time, it takes for the interactions to occur.”

“Being at a place like Oak Ridge helped me be flexible and morph quickly as a teacher and a scientist,” continues Peterson, whose manuscript on this research was published recently in Science of the Total Environment. “Sabbaticals are good lessons to not become too entrenched. There are pressing matters that need results. I was privilege to be given the time and space to look into them.”

One related to the other, the other related to the one—this is how our world and its people work, from the smallest scientific particle to the largest Christian principle. That’s something Dr. Peterson has always related to.

Dr. Jonathan Peterson is the Lavern and Betty DePree VanKley Professor of the Geology and Environmental Science in Geological and Environmental Sciences Department at Hope College.

Hope 2016: A Watch List

A new year is a perfect time for list-making. Many of us do it. A resolution list for self-improvement. A goals list for work. A bucket list for travel. Basically, these are all ways to look forward to 365 days worth of new opportunities and growth.

At Hope, we have many things to look forward to in 2016, the sesquicentennial year of our existence. While our resolution list will always be our mission—“to educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society through academic and co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberal arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith”—we have a highlight list, too. Some list items, like effectively teaching and researching and advising and mentoring, are quieter and less showy than other items that grab big headlines (even on this blog!). But when each item gets its conclusive checkmark, we know the resolve toward our mission has been enhanced.

New Year’s lists are ways to look forward to 365 days worth of new opportunities and growth. Our resolution list can be permanently found in our mission statement.

Here, then, are four things on our watch list worth checking out for our mission’s sake in 2016—the quiet, the loud and the resolute.

  1. CIS x 2

Since its inception in 1980, Hope’s Critical Issues Symposium (CIS)—an event to stimulate serious thinking about current issues and to provide a forum in which the students, faculty and the Holland community may all engage in discussion with experts—has traditionally been held annually during the fall semester. In 2016, though, CIS guest speakers will take to their lecterns during both the spring and fall semesters, a first in CIS history. Last fall’s CIS was moved to this spring semester due to a scheduling conflict with David Brooks, the New York Times columnist and best-selling author who spoke on campus in September, 2015, as part of the Presidential Colloquium. Now CIS gets an added spring spotlight as it focuses on “Engaging the Middle East:  Understanding Contemporary Changes” on Wednesday and Thursday, February 24 and 25.  In light of the recent Syrian refugee crisis, the Iran nuclear deal, and the rise of ISIS, this is a subject that could not be more timely.

In the fall CIS will look at economic inequality in America on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 27 and 28. The income gap keeps growing in the U.S., minimum wage is a hot-button issue as are the survival of unions, and our largest socioeconomic class, the middle class, is struggling. This CIS will delve into all of those subjects and more by asking ‘Why?’ ‘What are the implications on our economy other sociocultural markers?’, and ‘How should Christians, poor and rich, respond?’

  1. Musical Showcase Comes Home
Musical Showcase, held at DeVos Hall in the past, will come home to Hope in 2016

The 28th Annual Musical Showcase—a fast-paced, musical spectacular during which audience members hear everything from opera to jazz —will take the stage at Hope for the first time since its creation in 1989. Traditionally performed at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids on one night, Musical Showcase comes home to debut the large, 800-seat concert hall on two nights in the newly opened Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts. “We felt we should christen this new space with a performance by our students,” said Julia Randel, associate professor of music and chairperson of the music department. “Musical Showcase involves every student in our department. It is a celebration of all we do, so that makes it the perfect event to open this new concert hall… Every note will be crystal clear. The sound in there is just gorgeous.”

Musical Showcase will take the stage Friday and Saturday, February 5 and 6 at 7:30 pm. Tickets to the Hope community go on sale the week of January 18 while the general public sale start January 25.

  1. Bultman Center Gets Bolted Down
The Bultman Student Center begins its shape with footings and foundation.

Nykerk Hall was razed and the site cleared since last fall. Now, the center-of-campus earth is ready for the growth of the new Jim and Martie Bultman Student Center. With site surveying and prep complete, construction on this newest Hope building has begun in earnest as soil was recently moved for the elevator pits and the pouring of its foundation and footings. Exterior walls for the three-story, $22.5 million center named for Hope’s 11th president and his wife will start to rise this May. The center should be enclosed by late fall, 2016. Once the building is complete in late spring, 2017, the Bultman Center will provide much needed, dedicated space for student organizations, offices for Counseling and Psychological Services, group meeting rooms, a large multi-purpose room, a small chapel, a theatre, a fireplace room (especially attractive during Michigan winters), and the latest in food and coffee service.

  1. 150 Going on 151

The 2015-16 academic year continues to mark the sesquicentennial of Hope’s founding in 1866 when its charter was granted by the state of Michigan. That first commencement saw eight students graduate. This May, the 151st commencement will see the most graduates ever walk across the stage to receive their diploma folders from President John Knapp. The largest freshman cohort ever to arrive on campus four years ago will depart as the largest senior class, too. Approximately 650 seniors will graduate this May having completed their degree requirements in one of Hope’s 100 majors. Since it takes 126 credit hours to earn a Hope degree (and many Hope senior often earn more than that), this means the class of 2016 has successfully completed more than 81,900 credit hours or, at an average of 3.25 credit hours per course offered, have taken more than 25,000 classes in four (sometimes five) years.

From the breadth and depth of general education requirements to the specificity of major courses, from the first graduating class to the next and beyond, in new buildings and old, our 2016 watch list is really about what we do best: a Hope education delivered, learned, and applied. Check.

Give the Gift of Reading (Hope Authors) This Christmas

Santa Carrying Shopping Bags --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Christmas is less than a week away. How’s your shopping going?   If you are like one of the 24 million people in America who wait to start gift purchasing until Christmas Eve, not so good, right? Or, maybe you just need one or two ideas and items to finish your list.

Either way, Stories of Hope is here to help.

A multitude of Hope professors are also authors of several bestselling, general interest books. On topics that range from faith to sports, these books are testament to the writing talent of Hope scholars who desire to share their passion and expertise beyond the classroom in published, public form. And though the list below is certainly not exhaustive of all of the books by Hope faculty, it does offer a little of something for everyone.

Whether you are finishing up, or just starting with that Christmas shopping strategy of getting your loved ones something they want, something they need, something they wear, or something they READ, we have the READ portion covered here for you.  All books are available at college’s Hope-Geneva Bookstore.  The Hope-Geneva Bookstore is located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center, 141 E. 12th St., and can be called at 800-946-4673, or 616-395-7833.  Email them, too, at

Faith and Religion

What Does It Mean to be Catholic? by Jack Mulder, Associate Professor of Philosophy

UnknownWriting in the first-person and a conversational tone, Mulder provides an overview of several core tenets of the Catholic Church. He was motivated by his own faith journey.  Mulder was raised a Protestant, and converted to Catholicism 11 years ago, shortly before joining the Hope faculty in 2004. He seeks to provide answers to the sorts of questions that he had along the way. “This book is really for three groups, namely, new Catholics who want to know more about their faith; non-Catholics who want to understand Catholic distinctives better; and lifelong Catholics who would like to be reacquainted with what they believe,” he said.

A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists by David Myers, Professor of Psychology

Unknown-1In this book, Myers responds to the “new atheist” argument that all religion is dangerous and false, by suggesting how faith can be—and often is—reasonable, science-affirming, healthy, hopeful and humane. Myers writes as both a social scientist and a person of faith. While acknowledging ways religion has fueled the worst in human behavior, he notes that religion more often leads adherents to engage with the world as forces for good.

Is Your Lord Large Enough? How C.S. Lewis Expands Our View of God by Peter Schakel, the Peter and Emajean Cook Professor of English

Unknown-2In “Prince Caspian” by C.S. Lewis, Aslan, the great Lion and Christ figure, says to the young girl Lucy, “Every year you grow you will find me bigger.” Schakel’s book uses that sentence as the starting point for an examination of how Lewis’s writings provide help for readers seeking growth in their Christian lives through an expanding, deepening understanding of God.

Social Issues

Beyond Homelessness by Steven Bouma-Prediger, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning

Unknown-3Co-authored with Brian J. Walsh, this book explores the forms and implications of dislocation in contemporary North American culture and considers Christian faith as a path toward healing and faithful homemaking. Not only explores the problem of homelessness as an economic and sociological condition, Bouma-Prediger and Walsh also examines two other types of homelessness: what they call ecological homelessness and postmodern homelessness.

How the Church Fails Businesspeople (and what can be done about it) by John Knapp, President and Professor of Religion and Management

Unknown-5Why do so many Christians struggle to relate their faith to their daily work? Is it the church’s fault? President Knapp argues that the church’s unclear teachings about vocation, money, and business have long contributed to Christians’ uncertainty about how to live out their beliefs in the workplace. Based on Knapp’s business experience and extensive research, this book brings fresh perspectives to this troubling problem.

Memoirs and Biographies

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress and Mennonite Meets Mr. Right by Rhoda Janzen Burton, Associate Professor of English
Unknown-6Themes of family, faith and love, delivered with a good dose of humor, propel major life events in these two memoirs by Burton. The first in storyline and publication date, Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, topped on the New York Times bestseller’s list for several weeks in 2010. Though never seeing herself as a nonfiction writer prior to writing both books (she is also a published poet), Burton tackles her own spiritual discoveries and life changes in ways that are “not just beautiful and intelligent but also painfully—even wincingly—funny,” said Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, of the first book. Kate Braestrup, the author of Unknown-7Here if You Need Me said Burton’s second memoir, Mennonite Meets Mr. Right, “made me laugh out loud, often enough to make my beloved children inquire as to whether I was losing my mind.”

Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life by Natalie Dykstra, Associate Professor of English

Unknown-8Although the marriage and death of prominent, 19th-century Bostonian Marian “Clover” Adams were well documented, it was the story that hadn’t been told that most fascinated Dykstra. In telling it, she had a crucial ally: Clover Adams herself, whose letters and artistic eye, as expressed in her portrait and landscape photography, provide a new and compelling view of her life. Adams, whose husband was the descendant of two U.S. presidents, lived an 1800s-life of privilege among the city’s political and social elite. By the standards of the day, she seemed to have it all, and yet in 1885, at age 42, she succumbed to depression and took her own life by drinking a poisonous chemical she used to develop her photographs. Clover Adams was named a “Must Read” book of 2013 in the 13th Annual Massachusetts Book Awards.

Children’s Fiction

The Secret of the Lonely Grave by Albert Bell, Professor of History

Unknown-9Set in southern Kentucky, this novella centers on two 11-year-old friends, Steve and Kendra, when they notice that someone has taken an interest in the long-neglected grave of a young girl who died in the 1860s. Their investigation leads them not only to discover her story, but to lessons on the Civil War, slavery and the Underground Railroad.

Adult Fiction

Bell is also the author of an on-going series of mystery novels set in ancient Rome that track the fictional adventures of real-life protagonist Pliny the Younger. Five books comprise the series thus far:  All Roads Lead to Murder, The Blood of Caesar, The Corpus Conundrum, Death in the Ashes, and The Eyes of Aurora. These books have earned high marks from critics with the second, The Blood of Caesar being named one of the 5 Best Mysteries of 2008 by “Library Journal.”


Night Sessions by David Cho, Associate Professor of English

This chapbook is based primarily on Cho’s own life as a Chicago-born and -raised child of Korean parents, who immigrated to America in 1971. Whether writing of his parents, other relatives, his multi-ethnic friends, or other members of community or congregation, Cho seeks to honor and elucidate the past, even as it clashes with the present to form an American hybrid: the poet himself. Along the way, he revisits moments of childhood confusion and wonder, of assimilation and tradition, of memory and loss.

Since Everything is All I’ve Got by David (D.R.) James, Adjunct Associate Professor of English

The first full-length poetry collection reflects a life journey from loss to joy, with an emphasis on finding wonder in the moment whatever the stage. Featured poetic work across a decade, James grouped the collection’s 60 poems into three parts that show, he notes, “an upward trend from a fairly bleak outlook on life due to existential realities to a new appreciation for life and the now—which is why the title Since Everything Is All I’ve Got.


Mere Believers: How Eight Faithful Lives Changes the Course of History by Marc Baer, Professor of History

9781625642059A specialist in modern British history, Baer focuses on eight men and women who lived in Great Britain between the beginning of the 18th century and the middle of the 20th century, and the difference that they—and their Christian faith—made to the world. The title is derived from a phrase coined by C.S. Lewis, reflecting that while those whose lives Baer explores represent a variety of traditions within Christianity, they are part of a larger community of faith. The group is also diverse in terms of background and experience, ranging from Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, who in the 18th century used her wealth to support the Methodist movement that was outcast during her times; to Olaudah Equiano, a former slave from Nigeria who purchased his own freedom and advocated abolition in the 18th century; to 18th-century politician William Wilberforce, who shifted his priorities from career ambition to abolition; to Dorothy L. Sayers, the 20th-century, mystery novelist who also wrote extensively about the importance of finding one’s calling.

Hope Beyond Border by Stephen Hemenway, Professor of English

150112dhopebeyondbordersHemenway, a long-time faculty member who has had a profound effect on international education at Hope himself, chronicles the extraordinary life of Dr. Paul Fried, a legendary Hope College faculty member whose impact on the college continues decades after his retirement. Fried, who died in July 2006 at age 87, was an émigré whose family was killed by the Nazis.  After initially coming to West Michigan to attend Hope, he served with the U.S. Army in the European Theatre during World War II and was subsequently a translator during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.  He returned to Holland to teach history at Hope from 1953 to 1984, and is widely recognized as the principal architect of the college’s international education program. Hemenway was a long-time colleague and friend of Fried, and since 1976 has directed the college’s Vienna Summer School, which Fried had founded in 1956 and directed for the two decades in between.

Holland, Michigan: From Dutch Colony to Dynamic City by Robert Swierenga, A.C. Van Raalte Research Professor

Unknown-10This comprehensive three-book set details the entire sweep of the Holland’s history since 1847, when the initial band of Dutch settlers founded the community.  With more than 2,600 pages with nearly 900 photographs, the three volumes received a State History Award, the highest recognition presented by the Historical Society of Michigan. Swierenga spent more than 10 years conducting research for and writing the history. The index alone, some 200 pages long, required several months to create.


Volleyball: Steps to Success by Becky Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology

Unknown-11This players and coaches’ how-to book covers serving, passing, setting, attacking and blocking, as well as tactics for playing various offensive and defensive schemes at all positions. Dozens of drills featuring a self-scoring component allow players to chart progress and accelerate improvement. Informed by a Schmidt’s coaching career that has included more than 300 wins since 2004 and a NCAA Division III national championship, Volleyball: Steps to Success was written by Schmidt with club and high school volleyball players and their coaches or instructors in mind.

Hip Hop a Hit in Japan

This past September, Professor Crystal Frazier walked into a Tokyo dance studio to teach a distinctly American art form and immediately encountered a vibe that was uniquely Japanese. A class of 40 college students stood eagerly at the ready – respectful, disciplined, hospitable. The music began to play, and an interpreter, earnest to translate, barely needed to speak. For the next three hours, hip hop would be the vehicle to move bodies and relationships across cultural lines; dance would be their universal language.

Crystal Frazier, assistant professor of dance at Hope College

Frazier, an assistant professor of dance who specializes in tap and Afro-fusion dance as well as hip hop, was present in that studio due to her selection by the Dance International Workshop Program to teach in Japan. Her four-week teaching and dancing tour of colleges in Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, and of course, Tokyo, imparted not only the movement of hip hop but its history and social significance, too. To her delight and surprise, her Japanese understudies fully embraced the American art form and their American guest professor too.

Hip hop would be the vehicle to move bodies and relationships across cultural lines; dance would be their universal language.

Professor Crystal Frazier, far right, instructs students in the moves of hip hop in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Frazier)

“It was incredible,” gushes Frazier who has taught at Hope since 2011. “I was struck by the discipline of the students alone. They focused intensely and were very respectful. There was no fiddling around. They were always ready to go and then for an entire class, they listened and engaged. And when class was done, they cleaned up the room for the next class. I was blown away.

“I was also really amazed at how gifted and talented they were,” she continues. “They have taken it (hip hop) and owned. They were all in. Except for the history part. That aspect they needed to know more about.”

Frazier taught them then—this time relying more on her interpreter—that hip hop started as an art form in the U.S. in the late 1970s. Purely defined, hip hop is an umbrella culture consisting of five elements (MC-ing, DJ-ing, breaking, graffiti, and knowledge). It broke on the scene in the south Bronx of New York City, and since then it has expanded to nearly every American region as well as internationally. Though it has several sub-styles such as lyrical, soul, and femme, hip hop is hip hop to Frazier—a singularly named dance style demonstrative of high energy and emotion. That was her main lesson to impart while in Japan.

Fortunately, hip hop has been deeply appreciated by the Japanese for some time, Frazier found. “Sometimes I think they love it more than people in the States, only because we can take American things for granted,” says the effervescent Frazier who dances professionally still for Rennie Harris Puremovement, an American dance company of hip hop artists.

Though she feels that Japanese teens and young adults gravitate to hip hop, she also felt, and experienced, a lack of social dancing in Japan. This difference in culturally and publicly accepted dancing struck Frazier as profoundly as the respect and discipline her students displayed in class. It is a concept foreign to her, this idea of reserving dance mostly for the studio and stage.

Dancing in the Street: Crystal Frazier, center, bought her dancing energy to the famous Tokyo-Shibuya crossing. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Frazier)

“When we have a party (in the U.S.), people dance,” observes Frazier. “The Electric Slide comes on and everyone gets up and dances. Not so in Japan. Parties were about conversations. People were talking but not dancing. It seemed dancing, newer dancing, is not a socially engaged activity in Japan. I can’t imagine listening to music and not dancing.”

Move and groove. This is a hip hop dancer’s mantra. And it is one Frazier aspired to leave behind in Japan.

David Myers on Gratitude and Happiness

14334024732_9d360faf68_bIn this season of giving thanks, we’ll sit down for a day and express appreciation for all we have and for whom we love. Our sentiments of gratitude will be sincere. We are grateful, maybe even content, and we mean it. Then we’ll see the Black Friday bargain flyers in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper, weighing about five pounds more than average, and the contented feeling flees. “What is on sale? How much can we save? How much can we get?”

The real question we should ask though, posits Dr. David Myers, professor of psychology, is this: how much is enough? It’s a hard question to ask and even harder to answer in this age and country of plenty, yet everything he knows from his research and his personal life tells him the best things in life aren’t things.

Dr. Myers has been called Hope’s happiness guru, not only for his writings on the topic, but also for his ever optimistic, ever smiling, ever encouraging disposition. You would be hard-pressed to find someone happier.

Dr. David Myers, professor of psychology and an esteemed Fellow of the American Association of the Advancement of Science

And just this week, he is also Hope’s newly elected fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Myers was chosen for this honor for distinguished contributions to the field of social psychology and communication of psychological science to students and the public. His highly successful textbooks and nine other books on topics ranging from intuition to hearing loss to happiness have educated millions in classrooms and for personal inquiry. His hundreds of presentations and articles on his expertise evidences a man who finds much of his happiness in what he does.

“Surprised and appreciative,” Dr. Myers says of his reaction to the revelation of this newest honor.

“And if there is one virtue I believe I am capable of, it is gratitude.  I’m overwhelmed by gratitude for so many wonderful people whom I love and admire because it is these brilliant people who bring passion and commitment to enable us to teach psychology to so many,” he says, referring to his editorial and local support team. “I am the quarterback of that team, and, yes, the books wouldn’t get written without me. But a team of world-class editors surrounds and guides me and enables people like me to seem better than we are.”

Add self-deprecating humility to Myers’ gratitude attitude, as well.

But what of the rest of us? Where do we find our happy place? If the secret to happiness is not found in the material world, how would Dr. Myers tell us to seek happiness and gratitude in this time of year when we especially seek to express both?

Here are the top 10 ways to be a happier, more grateful celebrator of the holidays (and life) ahead, digested below in Dr. Myers’ own words from his book, The Pursuit of Happiness:

  1. Realize that enduring happiness does not come from success. People adapt to changing circumstances—even to wealth or a disability. Thus, wealth is like health; its utter absence breeds misery but having it doesn’t guarantee happiness.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal. Those who pause everyday to reflect on some positive aspect of their lives (health, friends, family, freedom, education, natural surroundings) experience heightened well-being by counting their blessings.
  3. Act happy. We can sometimes act ourselves into a happier frame of mind. Manipulated into a smiling expression, people feel happier; when they scowl, the whole world scowls back. So put on a happy face. Going through the motions can trigger the emotions.
  4. Give priority to close relationships. Intimate friendships with those who care deeply about you can help you weather difficult times. Confiding is good for the soul and body. Resolve to nurture your closest relationships by not taking your loved ones for granted.
  5. Focus beyond yourself. Reach out to those in need. Happiness increases helpfulness (those who feel good do good). But doing good also makes one feel good and grateful.
  6. Nurture your spiritual self. For many people, faith provides a support community, a reason to focus beyond self, a sense of purpose and hope.
  7. Take control of your time. Happy people feel in control of their lives. To master your use of time, set goals and break them into daily aims. Although we often overestimate how much we will accomplish in any given day (leaving us frustrated), we generally underestimate how much can accomplish in a given year, given just a little progress every day.
  8. Seek work and leisure that engages your skills. Happy people are in a zone called “flow”—absorbed in tasks that challenge but don’t overwhelm them. The most expensive forms of leisure (sitting on a yacht) often provide less flow experience than gardening, socializing, or craft work.
  9. Join the “movement” movement.  An avalanche of research reveals that aerobic exercise can relieve mild depression and anxiety as it promotes health and energy. Sound minds reside in sound bodies. Off your duffs, couch potatoes.
  10. Give your body the rest it wants. Sleep deprivation, with its resulting fatigue, diminishes alertness and leads to gloomy moods. So, get some z’s.

Hope in Paris

Last Friday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, and the after-effects that have threatened and grieved the city since, have dominated the U.S. news cycle. And understandably so. If you live in Paris, though, it’s more than news; it is real life. Since the world can feel both large and small simultaneously, it seems almost everyone in the States knows someone who was affected by terrorism in France. For the Hope College community and one Hope student, that is indeed the case.
Junior Katelyn Kiner, a French and history major from Arlington Heights, IL, who is currently studying in Paris

Junior Katelyn Kiner is spending the 2015-16 academic year studying in Paris through the college’s IES program. Commonly, studying abroad means immersion into culture and language via the international classroom and daily living. Kiner—a French and history double major—is particularly fascinated by Versailles and the history surrounding it. To live more fully as a Parisian, she acquired her own bike upon arrival in the City of Light and uses it regularly to explore at length the garden and the park of Versailles.

Now, though, the attacks have given her ventures and scholarship in France a more intense and profound meaning. Kiner was only one mile away from the concert hall massacre at the Bataclan Theatre. After an initial short email exchange to reassure family and Hope friends she was safe, she crafted longer sentiments to Dr. Brigitte Hamon-Porter, associate professor of French, about what it means to be an American in Paris at this fateful time. Her fighting spirit and deep love for France are evident in her own words, published below with permission.

A peace symbol, Eiffel-style, drawn on the sidewalk outside of Kiner’s Paris apartment. Photo courtesy of Katelyn Kiner.

“Anyway, I’m okay.  In both the hopeless and hopeful sense of the word. Life carries on as it should and must and I am so proud of the city for that. Personally, there are moments of great hope when it all seems alright and then there are moments of great despair when you wonder how it could ever get better. I’ve written this email over the last day and I think both of those two sides come out it. The thing is I know it wouldn’t be any better if I was in the U.S. (I touch on this later), but I went through the same grieving process following Charlie Hebdo… Now I know it doesn’t matter if I’m 6,000 miles away or one mile away, I’m still going to grieve, because they attacked a place and a people I love and that is hard to come to terms with. But I’m glad I love this place and people, because without it, I would have missed out on so many moments of exquisite joy.

“This weekend I’ll go to a concert because there is beauty to be seen and heard and no sick men are going to take that chance away from me.”
“This weekend I’ll go to a concert because there is beauty to be seen and heard and no sick men are going to take that chance away from me. It will take time, but I’m on a good path and I’m surrounded by good people here and in the US. Things are getting back to normal here or perhaps it’​s just a new normal, but life goes on…
The re-lit Eiffel Tower this past Monday. Fluctuat Nec Mergitur means “It is tossed around, but does not (or will not) sink.” It is a Parisian motto first used by the city in the Middle Ages. Photo courtesy of Katelyn Kiner.

“Last night (Monday), they lit up the Eiffel Tower in bleu, blanc, rouge (blue, white, red). The tower has been dark after the attacks and I think to have her lit up again in those colors and with ‘Fluctuat nec mergitur’ written on the bottom arch was symbolic sign of defiance. With different people who have visited, I’ve gone to the Eiffel Tower/ Trocadero for them to take a picture. Usually there it is a whole mess of foreign languages (being spoken by the many visitors), but last night it was predominately French. The Parisians were out to commemorate and in the crowd there was a great sense of hope, because tonight the international symbol of Paris said ‘no’ to terrorism. ‘Il est battu par les flots, mais ne sombre pas.’  You tried, you failed. We’re not going anywhere.

“At this point I might just be a fake Parisian, but even so I’m proud to be because these people are amazing.”