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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaks Away: Sylvia Kallemeyn

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

Breaks Away: Sabbatical Stories of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here a few lines from Blades’ song:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Para celebrar (to celebrate)

Nuestra Identidad (our identity)

Porque un pueblo unido (Because a united people)

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

Suena las campanas (The bells toll)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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.

TenHaken
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.

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.