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.

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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.

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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…
 
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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.”

Serve, Volley, Set, Read

With her 2015 volleyball season recently concluded, Becky Schmidt,  Hope’s head coach and assistant professor of kinesiology, undoubtedly used a page or two out of her own book in coaching the national championship-defending Flying Dutch to another NCAA appearance (their eighth in a row) and a 24-7 overall record.

And not just her own playbook but her own textbook, too.

Head coach Becky Schmidt ’99 guides the team during the championship game against Emory (Georgia) in 2014.
Head coach Becky Schmidt guides her team during the championship game against Emory (Georgia) in 2014.

Schmidt is the author of the newly released, Volleyball: Steps to Success, a 216-page instructional publication published by Human Kinetics that provides guidance on serving, passing, setting, attacking, and blocking as well as tactics for playing various offensive and defensive schemes at all positions. The book features dozens of drills, illustrated by photos of Hope College students on the DeVos Fieldhouse court, as well as a self-scoring component that allows players to chart progress and accelerate improvement.

Courtesy of Human Kinetics
Courtesy of Human Kinetics

A project two years in the making, Schmidt wrote the book with club and high school volleyball players and their coaches in mind. She also wanted college students and instructors in volleyball activity classes to benefit from her book.

Schmidt vastly relates to each audience member to whom she writes, having stood in their same coaching, teaching, and playing shoes. As a former NCAA Division III All-American at Hope herself, and now, a professor of volleyball activity classes, a club coach of girls ages 12 to 18, an international coach of two U.S. teams to Italy and Australia, and, a 2014 national championship coach with over 350 wins in 15 years of head coaching at the Division III level, Schmidt knows from whence she writes.

“I wanted to break each step of the game down into fundamental pieces and I also wanted to make sure I communicated the importance of each of those pieces—and how they fit into the greater game,” Schmidt says of her writing process.  “When teaching volleyball class, for example, we learn and talk about fundamental skills first, but we still play a lot of volleyball games in class.  This book shows the lessons and importance of fundamental skills and techniques, alongside tactics, in context with the bigger game.”

“Leading her team to the NCAA Division III National Championship is testament to Coach Becky Schmidt’s acute knowledge of volleyball and approach to coaching,” endorses Sam Shweisky, head men’s volleyball coach at Princeton University. “In Volleyball: Steps to Success, she provides a game plan for improving skill level, mastering the fundamentals, and achieving success.  This book will make any volleyball player or coach better.”

Schmidt  is a 1999 graduate of Hope with a major in kinesiology. She subsequently completed a Master of Science degree in sports behavior and performance at Miami (OH) University 2003.

You can purchase Volleyball: Steps to Success at the college’s Hope-Geneva Bookstore. The Hope-Geneva Bookstore is located on the ground level of the DeWitt Center, 141 E. 12th St., Call 800.946.4673 or email bookstore@hope.edu.

Breaks Away: Graham Peaslee

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 restoration and adventure both, 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.

On a scale of sedentary to prolific, the yearlong break away of Dr. Graham Peaslee, the Elmer E. Hartgerink Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science, can be best described as super-productive. If there was such a thing as barometric sabbatical pressure, Dr. Peaslee crushed it.

To wit:

  • He gave talks at 27 venues in nine U.S. states and Australia;
  • He crossed the Pacific Ocean four times in July alone, and his watch hasn’t been the same since;
  • He wrote three successful grant proposals to the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Australian government, collaborated on Hope’s successful Dow Foundation proposal, and has two more proposals still pending to the Department of Defense and the NSF;
  • He wrote three other grant proposals but received “thanks-but-no-thanks” replies;
  • He published five peer-reviewed papers during the year and submitted three more after classes started this fall; and,
  • He registered a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
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Dr. Graham Peaslee, Elmer E. Hartgerink Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science

One last thing, but I’ll wait while you catch your breath…..

  • Dr. Peaslee co-founded a new company— along with Hope colleague, Dr. Peter Boumgarden, assistant professor of economics, and Hope alum, Evelyn Ritter ’15, a mechanical engineer — called University Market Partners (UMP) Analytical that tests for the presence of perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) in consumer products. PFASs — human-made chemicals found in flame retardant, stain- and water-resistant materials such as carpet, furniture fabrics, textiles and outdoor clothing, cosmetics, fire-fighting foam and even the liner of microwave popcorn bags — are concerning for their long environmental lifetimes, bioaccumulation and toxicity, and thus their impact on human and animal life. Another NSF grant got UMP launched, and NSF featured UMP’s work on its website.

 

“Sabbatical is a time to see where you are and where you want to go,” says Dr. Peaslee, who obviously went to a lot of places in mileage and mind. “It’s a time to put your efforts into your passions.”

“When I stop to think about it, it really makes me angry. There are over 500 (PFASs) and only two have been voluntarily removed from the U.S. market,” he says firmly. “No one eats microwave popcorn in my household anymore.”

Since his passions are the environment and chemistry combined, UMP’s creation perfectly explains where Dr. Peaslee’s newest trek is going. His road is mapped by analytic and nuclear chemistry; his destination is science policy as much as science itself. Those microwave popcorn bags with PFASs? Denmark recently removed them from their grocery store shelves. Understandably, Dr. Peaslee would like to see PFASs removed from all food packaging materials in the U.S.

“When I stop to think out it, it really makes me angry. There are over 500 (PFASs) and only two have been voluntarily removed from the U.S. market,” he says firmly. “No one eats microwave popcorn in my household anymore.”

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Hope senior David Lunderberg, right, and Evelyn Ritter, a UMP Analytical co-founder, at work in Dr. Peaslee’s lab.

Most Saturdays — and any other day of the week, really — Dr. Peaslee can be found with a team of students conducting PFAS testing using the Pelletron particle accelerator, a piece of pricey equipment he acquired with an NSF grant in 2004, in his lab on Hope’s campus. The company’s workers take an existing yet refined nuclear process that Dr. Peaslee and Dr. Paul DeYoung, the Kenneth G. Herrick Professor of Physics, discovered about a year ago and tests for PFASs in minutes when once the testing required days. While paying back colleges and universities like Hope for their accelerator’s use, and giving Hope students experience and employment to boot, UMP is just as importantly able to provide a low-cost PFAS screening method for non-profit groups such as The National Resource Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Environmental Working Group. It’s a win-win-win for Hope, the environment and humans.

Of course, Dr. Peaslee’s priority remains teaching and researching at Hope while he runs UMP with his partners. Follow him on Twitter @gfpeaslee. You’ll find his feed full of scientific engagement with students and colleagues, from watershed experiences to cyclotron experiments.

Would you expect anything else from a super-productive professor?

Dr. Graham Peaslee is the Elmer E. Hartgerink Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Science in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department at Hope College.

Breaks Away: Deborah Van Duinen

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 restoration and adventure both, 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.

Any endeavor that goes from big to bigger requires effort, vision and good old-fashioned gumption. So when Dr. Deb Van Duinen decided to take the highly successful Hope-Holland Big Read of 2014 and create the Bigger Read of 2015, she was fortunate to have a sabbatical leave to focus her efforts and vision, but especially her trademark gumption, on the next version of bringing a community together through one book.

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Dr. Deborah VanDuinen, assistant professor of education and Towsley Research Scholar, is the program director of Hope and Holland’s next Big Read.

The Big Read is a program created by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) “to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book.” Through the careful planning of program directors like Dr. Van Duinen, it provides opportunities for citizens to read and educators to lead as stories are told, meanings are found, and communities collectively react to both. With a lover of books, a specialist in adolescent literacy and English education, and a positive, energetic person like Dr. Van Duinen in charge, reading can’t help but be anything but big.

Harper Lee’s long-beloved and critically acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird was the selection for Hope and Holland’s first Big Read in 2014, for which Dr. Van Duinen secured an NEA grant. The month-long event was so well-received (more than 3,000 Hollanders and Hope-ites participated) and the book so thoughtfully and thoroughly considered that an encore was requested. The Hope education professor determined to orchestrate another Big Read, affectionately renaming it “The Bigger Read,” with the help of a second NEA grant. This fall, Hope faculty, staff and students, along with Holland residents, will wrestle with The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien’s weighty and award-winning book about soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Dr. Van Duinen admits that, at first, the selection of The Things They Carried made her and her Big Read committee a little nervous due to the subject matter (war) and volatile time period (the moody 1960s) of the book. But this collaborative professor heard the feedback calling for variety and selected an NEA-approved book with a dissimilar feel from last year’s familiar read. She was not about to shy away from “an opportunity to let people’s stories come through” as they read the book. “In fact,” she says, “I’m honored to be able to play a part in helping people get shaped by story.” She adds, “People were willing to listen and learn from each other’s stories last year. I have no doubt that despite the different topic and themes in The Things They Carried, this year will be the same.”

“The nature of storytelling allows us to think of our own stories too. What are the stories in our own lives? How do we refine the past? How do we tell stories to save our souls?” Dr. Van Duinen ponders. “These are questions books ask us.”

Launched this past Monday by Dr. Fred Johnson, a former Marine and current associate professor of history at Hope, with his presentation, “The Legacy of Their Burdens,” the Big Read, and thus O’Brien’s stories, will engage 15 high school teachers and their students from 10 area schools. At Hope, the book has created space for introspection and new knowledge in courses like Senior Seminar, English 113, First Year Seminar, Creative Writing and even a Latin class. And while schools are great places to talk about books, so are coffee shops, art galleries, churches, bookstores and breweries. Several of these locations around Holland will host 15 different book groups for the Big Read for the next three weeks. And of course, there is a long list of corollary events scheduled too.

Perhaps the biggest coup of all, though, for the Big Read will be a presentation by the author himself. O’Brien — whose appearance was secured by Dr. Van Duinen and the Big Read committee in partnership with the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series and Herrick Public Library — will give a keynote address on Thursday, November 19, at 7:00 pm at Evergreen Commons. Though his book is certainly about war and loss, it is about love and honor and memory too.

“The nature of storytelling (in books) allows us to think of our own stories too. What are the stories in our own lives? How do we refine the past? How do we tell stories to save our souls?” Dr. Van Duinen ponders. “These are questions books ask us.”

As if going from big to bigger wasn’t enough while on sabbatical, Dr. Van Duinen also published two peer-reviewed articles from her Big Read research, submitted three other manuscripts for publication, earned a grant from the Christian Scholars Foundation to study spirituality in young adult literature, and started a mother-son book club, a sentimental and scholarly project because it is where “my life as a mom overlaps with my research.”

The mothers and sons under Dr. Van Duinen literacy leadership recently finished another American classic and Big Read approved-book, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. But of course, why wouldn’t they? Little boys can read big too.

Dr. Deborah VanDuinen is an assistant professor of education and Towsley Research Scholar in the Department of Education at Hope College.

Breaks Away: Vicki TenHaken

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 restoration and adventure both, 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.

What is the best indicator of excellence in business? Sales figures? Consumer satisfaction? Innovation? Those are all good measures of successful business performance, to be sure. The one marker that includes them all, though, the one that ultimately decides if a company has good sales figures, consumer satisfaction and innovation is… survival.

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Vicki TenHaken, professor of management

Corporate longevity captivates Vicki TenHaken, professor of management, who spent much of her sabbatical writing a book about why America’s 100-plus year-old companies have endured wars, recessions, a Great Depression and an ever-fickle U.S. marketplace. It’s a favored topic of inquiry that she can trace back to two sources: her first career and 25 years spent in corporate leadership at two companies — General Electric and Herman Miller — that have withstood the balanced-book test of time, and her introduction to Makoto Kanda of Meiji Gakuin University who conducts research on the same topic in Japan.

TenHaken learned of Kanda’s work while leading a Hope College May Term at MGU in 2004. She was so intrigued that, a year later, she wrote and was awarded a GLCA grant to further study his surveying, qualitative methodology in learning how over 20,000 shinishe — meaning old, traditional, valued companies in Japanese — have kept their doors open for so long. What she has found about 1,000, long-term U.S. companies after over five years of data collection — culminating with that book she wrote entitled Lessons from Century Club Companies: Managing for Long-Term Success to be published in 2016 — is mostly congruent with what Kanda has found about Japanese ones, except in one way: Old Japanese companies have a specific development plan in place for their next CEOs. This is not often the case for American companies.

“Sometimes relationship building may have no immediate economic benefit but the (enduring) companies continue to prioritize it because they just know it is the right thing to do.” — Vicki TenHaken

Still, enduring corporate success — whether in Japan or the United States — has five common behaviors at its bottom-line, and three of them have to do with relationships. TenHaken’s blog, How Old Companies Survive, tell of those practices in detail. She says the good news is that the super majority of enduring enterprises strongly believe these practices have led to their longevity. The bad news is that those strong beliefs are typically not taught in MBA programs. But good news again: TenHaken teaches about those practices in her management seminar for majors at Hope.

“Relationship-building is a high priority for older companies and they are interlocking in nature, between employees, customers, suppliers, the community in which they (the companies) live,” says TenHaken. “Sometimes relationship-building may have no immediate economic benefit but the (enduring) companies continue to prioritize it because they just know it is the right thing to do.”

Additionally, TenHaken found a correlation between long-term corporate success and managing for environmental sustainability. On Corporate Knight’s list of most environmentally responsible firms, 40 percent of the U.S. companies were over 100 years old. TenHaken isn’t sure yet if their motivation flows from an overall stewardship mentality, “or, it could be that they are just generally frugal,” she says.

That is a topic for another study, next up on her research agenda. Like the century-old companies she researches, TenHaken plans to continue to add to the broader conversation of how to succeed in business while really trying.

Vicki TenHaken is a professor of management in the Department of Economics, Management, and Accounting and the Ruch Director of the Baker Scholar Program at Hope College.

Breaks Away: Linda Dykstra

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 restoration and adventure both, 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.

If not for her grandmother, Linda Dykstra, associate professor of music specializing in voice, may have never considered vocology as a field of inquiry in her academic life and thus for her sabbatical leaves from Hope in 2007 and 2015.

LDykstra
Linda Dykstra and SonoVu. The sound waves on the monitor depict good vibrato. “We want it to look like lasagna noodles,” Dykstra explains. “This is a good sign of the absence of tension (in a singer’s voice).”

Though she had no way of knowing it as a child, Dykstra would eventually become fascinated with vocology — the science and practice of voice habilitation  — in part due to her grandmother, whose voice was sacrificed as the result of an emergency tracheotomy performed by a country doctor at the site of an automobile accident in the 1930s. Her grandmother lived with a throat stoma for the rest of her life, and Dykstra’s compassion toward her grandma led to her curiosity about vocal folds (“They’re really not cords,” Dykstra clarifies) and how they work… and don’t work when mistreated by overuse or disease or disorder.

Because when one knows how something works, that’s when one knows how it can be fixed.

So Dykstra — a lyric soprano classically trained — spent much of her sabbatical “looking down throats at the office of ENT specialist Dr. Richard Strabbing (of Holland, Michigan), observing vocal disorders that resulted from laryngeal, tongue and thyroid cancers, vocal fold paralysis, and other considerably more benign disorders,” she says, in order to better understand the anatomy and function of these body parts essential to her teaching and voice therapy professions. This knowledge will help her better prescribe vocal singing techniques and therapies for Hope voice students who might, say, strain their voices over the summer as camp counselors or as Pull participants, both scenarios that she has worked with in the past.

Vocal fold knowledge will help Linda Dykstra better prescribe vocal singing techniques and therapies for Hope voice students who might, say, strain their voices over the summer as camp counselors or as Pull participants, both scenarios that she has worked with in the past.

“After the vocal folds sustain injury, and sometimes post-surgery, I provide habilitation techniques that can release muscle tension, aid in healing, and improve capacities to use the voice correctly,” says Dykstra whose post-graduate work in vocology has been cooperatively and collaboratively attained at the Keidar Voice Institute in New York City and the Bastian Voice Institute of Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Junior Elise Riddle, a dance major from Valparaiso, Indiana, watches her sound and technique using SonoVu.

Also on her last two breaks away from the college, Dykstra invented and then “preached the gospel of SonoVu,” an audio-visual technology she pioneered (and for which she has a provisional patent) with the help from a Hope ACAT (Academic Computing Advisory Team) grant in 2006. SonoVu links video with an already-invented audio display software called VoceVista. Dykstra put the two mediums together in order to teach voice students both visually and aurally since SonoVu allows them to see acoustic feedback, mouth formation and posture all at the same time. Dykstra records the two outputs through SonoVu and then hands her voice students DVDs of their visual and audio selves for corrective or affirmative reference.

“Before SonoVu, I could not even program our VCR,” Dykstra laughs. “Now I’m working with other institutions to bring SonoVu to their voice studios.”

Working daily with her invention in her homey office inside the new Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts, Dykstra always has plenty of company. Voice students not only fill her office most of the day for lessons, but she is also surrounded by numerous neatly-hung, black-and-white head shots of Hope graduates whom she has taught over the years and who now perform professionally across the country. Due to the flexible time sabbaticals provide, Dykstra took the opportunity to see two of those accomplished professionals perform in full color off-Broadway in New York City and in a Puccini opera in Des Moines, Iowa. Watching each perform on stage was a culminating joy, and it made Dykstra’s heart do what it knows best — sing.

Linda Dykstra is an associate professor of music in the Hope College Music Department.

Talking back to Hope Theatre

“The Christians,” the recently staged production by the Hope College Theatre Department, is a play full of questions but few answers. Seems right when delving into themes of faith and doubt. Seems right for good drama, too.

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Richard Perez, assistant professor of theatre and director of “The Christians”

Yet too many questions with not enough answers can be unsettling. So, Richard Perez, the play’s director and an assistant professor of theatre, employed the use of “talkbacks” at the conclusion of each of the play’s six performances to help theatergoers navigate and give voice to the tricky topics of love and fear, belief and uncertainty.

Unlike a panel discussion, Perez’s talkbacks did just what the name implies: they offered audience members the chance to ask their own questions to diverse, three- to four-person panels made up of 20 different Hope professors and administrators, as well as pastors from the Holland community, each night. Even Hope President John Knapp took part. The post-production discussions provided opportunities for open dialogue and furthered conversations about thematic aspects of the play. In doing so, viewers of Hope’s production of “The Christians” were ultimately seeking input and insight about questions important to their own faith lives. This kind of engagement on matters of faith is a hallmark of a Hope College education.

“’I’m so glad they did that (offered talkbacks),” said Hope freshman Michael Macks, who attended on opening night. “It gave me a chance to hear what other people thought about some of the questions I had, such as, do some people believe a certain way because their parents do? When does faith become our own?”

The post-production discussions provided opportunities for open dialogue and furthered conversations about thematic aspects of the play. In doing so, viewers of Hope’s production of “The Christian” were ultimately seeking input and insight about questions important to their own faith lives. This kind of engagement on matters of faith is a hallmark of a Hope College education.

“I have been so pleased with how well this play was received,” says Perez. “I heard many people talking about their impressions and questions as they were walking out of the (DeWitt) theater. One of our intro theatre classes spent an entire class period on it even though that is not what the professor had originally planned. I could not have asked for anything more than that.”

HCT Christians Dress-3
Hope College’s production of “The Christians,” the play’s collegiate premiere.

A fast ride with five actors, a nine-person choir and no intermission, the play is also currently being staged off Broadway to excellent reviews. Hope College gave “The Christians” its collegiate premiere and was even mentioned in a New York Times article about the playwright, Lucas Hnath.

Lights, camera… faculty

KenBrownOnCameraHad you walked into Dr. Ken Brown’s lab early yesterday morning, you would have been witness to this scene: Dr. Brown on camera, enthusiastically sharing his experience as an A. Paul Schaap Research Fellow.

It is always great to hear our faculty express such passion for their work (whether they’re on camera or not!). Every day, that work includes scholarly engagement and one-on-one collaborative research with students.

Recently featured on Hope’s homepage was a story about Dr. Brown, professor of chemistry. After reading it, you’ll understand the depth of collaborative interaction between Hope faculty and their students. You’ll also understand why, to Dr. Brown, it was important that “he never had to choose between research and teaching.”

In the story, Dr. Brown reflects on the instruments in his lab. “The equipment that we have is very impressive, even when you compare it to major research institutions,” he says. “But when you consider small schools like Hope, the amount of research that goes on and the equipment that we have far exceeds other schools, which makes student hands-on training even more feasible.”

As critical as they are to scholarship, sophisticated lab instruments do not singularly define Hope College as a community of scholars. And, well-equipped academic facilities alone have not made Hope a recognized leader in undergraduate research. At the heart of our students’ academic experience are the people — including dedicated professors like Dr. Brown.

Breaks Away: Tom Bultman

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 restoration and adventure both, 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.

Sheep in New Zealand have a friend in Dr. Tom Bultman. And Dr. Bultman, professor of biology, was happy to oblige the massive, wooly industry that is valuable in a country where sheep outnumber humans by about 10-to-1.

TomBultman
Dr. Tom Bultman, professor of biology at Hope College

Funded by a National Science Foundation grant and headquartered at AgResearch just outside of Christchurch, Dr. Bultman spent three months in the spring of 2015 investigating the growth and effects of endophytic fungus inside perennial ryegrass, the mainly foraged food source found in New Zealand paddocks. His research findings may eventually ensure that New Zealand’s ovine population (and America’s too) can eat their meals toxin-free.

“Endophytic fungus can produce chemicals in the grasses that can be toxic,” explains Dr. Bultman, who collaborated with six other New Zealand scientists, as well as Hope graduate Kelly Krueger ’14, on the project. “So it makes sense that ridding the grasses of those fungi and possible toxins is important to farmers in New Zealand and the U.S. because the effects of the fungi are pronounced in these two part of the world.”

Dr. Bultman and associates also looked at the alkaloid levels — the presences of nitrogenous compounds — in damaged grass and the insect impact on that grass as well. In other words, when ryegrass is walked on by sheep hooves or torn by the sheep’s teeth, what alkaloid, if any, would be produced and how would insects respond to it?

“We found that one variety of fungus actually produced reduced alkaloids in damaged grass, probably due to the sheep’s saliva,” Dr. Bultman says.

So in layman’s terms, sheep spit is actually a good thing.

“I’m a pretty simple guy, I admit,” he replies when asked what he appreciated most about his break away, “so sabbaticals are the chance to simplify, to focus on one thing for a big block of time. This research is new and novel, and I can’t wait to write it up.”

With most of his findings in hand, Dr. Bultman will now begin to author his work for publication in scholarly journals such as PLOS Biology. In fact, he’s anxious to do so.

“I’m a pretty simple guy, I admit,” he replies when asked what he appreciated most about his break away, “so sabbaticals are the chance to simplify, to focus on one thing for a big block of time. This research is new and novel, and I can’t wait to write it up.”

Dr. Tom Bultman is a professor in the Biology Department at Hope College.