Hope College isn’t just a place; it’s a community. A regular feature within “Stories of Hope,” People of Hope explores what that means by highlighting some of the students, faculty and staff who help make the campus family what it is.
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Instruction
As a student in her sophomore year at Hope, Jill VanderStoep knew exactly what she wanted to do: teach.
She and her husband, Scott, a Hope classmate who is on the college’s psychology faculty, originally pursued their careers beyond West Michigan, but ultimately realized that they wanted to return to be closer to family. Her next decision was easy. “Being back in West Michigan, I couldn’t think of a better place to teach than Hope College,” she said.
Thinking back on her time as a student at Hope, she reflected on things for which she was grateful. “First, the time and personal interest my professors invested in me while I was a student at Hope was amazing. Second, the challenges and growth that I experienced in my faith journey helped shape my Christian identity,” VanderStoep said. “Third, the strong and lasting bonds of friendships created during my four years at Hope have been a source of strength and comfort for me since graduating.”
“Being part of a learning community where students, faculty and staff are challenged to grow in all areas of their life is one of my favorite things about Hope.
Jill VanderStoep’s discipline is in mathematics and statistics, and her goal is for her students to become familiar and comfortable with data, to assist them no matter what field they pursue during or after college. “Whether my students realize it or not, throughout the semester they are learning to make decisions based on data,” VanderStoep said. “My priority is to create an environment where students feel comfortable to ask questions so that they can really understand how to use data to make decisions.”
It’s a philosophy that she has helped share with students around the country. It was a few years into teaching at Hope College that she became part of a project with colleagues at Hope and elsewhere to revamp the statistics curriculum. “The goal was to focus more on the statistical investigation process through active learning and guided discovery and to do that we had to put simulation-based inference at the heart of the curriculum,” VanderStoep said.
She’s found that the resulting textbook, Introduction to Statistical Investigations, that she co-authored has helped students to be much more engaged in the learning process and sees that they leave class with a fuller, better understanding of statistics. Others clearly agree. Introduction to Statistical Investigations and scholarly papers the team has written about the approach to teaching statistics have received multiple national awards.
Colleagues at Hope appreciate VanderStoep’s commitment to students’ learning as well. This past January, she received the Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award. The recognition is especially meaningful for VanderStoep because Andersen, a member of the mathematics faculty who died in a 2005 automobile accident, was herself acclaimed as an exceptional teacher. “Janet Anderson was a colleague of mine whom I admired greatly for her heart for reaching all students and guiding them to achieve the course goals,” VanderStoep said. “I have tried to embody that philosophy in my courses, so to receive this award is a great honor.”
Reflecting on her experience as a professor at Hope College, VanderStoep comments, “Being part of a learning community where students, faculty and staff are challenged to grow in all areas of their life is one of my favorite things about Hope. All three of my children graduated from Hope. I love Hope students. If there is anything I can do to help them to become who they were created to be, I stand at the ready.”