NEWS WINTER/SPRING 2018
OF DORDT COLLEGE
TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH In Cambodia, Salt Lake City, Paraguay, Chicago, and Sioux Center, students and alumni live their calling.
LEARNING TO FAIL 4
BRINGING LIFE TO HISTORY 16 THE NEW AMOR 21
ISSUE 2 OF 3
Leading Off WITH THE PRESIDENT
TWO, THREE, FOUR, OR MORE In December, I signed nearly 50 diplomas. It is one of the great joys in my role as president. As I did so, I thought about meeting some of these students when they were freshmen and watching them grow and develop during their years here. It gives me joy to watch them launch into service in Christ’s kingdom. The stack of December diplomas I have signed has grown each of the last several years. Six years ago, the majority of diplomas were for graduates who had taken more than four years to complete their degrees. Today, the students receiving those diplomas are graduating in fewer than four years because they have earned college credits while still in high school or have completed online summer courses through Dordt. I am thankful that our faculty are offering online courses from a Reformed worldview. This innovation allows our students to ready themselves more rapidly to work effectively for Christcentered renewal in God’s kingdom. While state universities seem to want to keep students enrolled as long as possible in order to receive more taxpayer dollars for each student enrolled, Dordt respects students’ desires to be good stewards of their time and tuition and encourages their efforts as they seek an early graduation. I find this to be an exciting time at Dordt. Not only are our innovative online courses allowing more students
to graduate in three and a half years, but our master’s programs have grown by 300 percent after moving to an online delivery format. And we recently welcomed 29 students to our new two-year Pro-Tech programs in farm management and operations and in manufacturing technology. Whether they require two years, three years, four years, or more, every course, program, and interaction on our campus is designed to align with the Founders' Vision: An education that is Christian not merely in the sense that devotional exercises are appended to the ordinary work of the college, but in the larger and deeper sense that all the class work, all of the students’ intellectual, emotional, and imaginative activities shall be permeated with the spirit and teaching of Christianity. We will continue to innovate, adding more online offerings and expanding collaborative educational and industry partnerships. As we do so, we will maintain our Christ-centered focus. We are thankful for your trust, encouragement, and support—and for your prayers that God will bless our efforts. Soli Deo Gloria!
DR. ERIK HOEKSTRA, PRESIDENT
OF DORDT COLLEGE
WINTER/SPRING 2018 VOLUME 63 | ISSUE 2 The Voice, an outreach of Dordt College, is sent to you as alumni and friends of Christian higher education. The Voice is published three times each year to share information about the programs, activities, and people at Dordt. www.dordt.edu (712) 722-6000 Send address corrections and correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or VOICE, Dordt College, 498 Fourth Ave. NE, Sioux Center, IA 51250-1606 Contributors Sarah Moss ('10), editor email@example.com Sally Jongsma, contributing editor Jamin Ver Velde ('99), art director and designer Kate Henreckson, contributing writer Lydia Marcus ('17), contributing writer Erika Buiter ('21), student writer Danny Mooers ('18), student writer Justin Banks ('19), student writer Karen Van Schouwen ('01), director of annual giving John Baas, vice president for college advancement John.Baas@dordt.edu Our Mission As an institution of higher education committed to a Reformed Christian perspective, Dordt College equips students, alumni, and the broader community to work effectively toward Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. On the Cover Nursing major Alexa DeRuyter ('20) and Voice editor Sarah Moss ('10) use a traditional Cambodian mortar and pestle to crush garlic and lemongrass for fish soup. They learned this and more from locals while on an AMOR trip to Cambodia over Christmas break.
JAMIN VER VELDE (99)
Tara Tilstra, a junior engineering major, observes as Dr. Ethan Brue uses a tensile strength tester to assess the strength of a metal alloy. Brue, who has taught engineering courses at Dordt since 2001, will give the commencement speech in May for the graduating class of 2018.
A computer science professor uses robot car kits and group work to teach her students how to handle failure.
One agriculture major creates his own off-campus opportunity in Paraguay.
Dordt faculty, staff, and coaches design a cross-country course through the Dordt prairie.
The history faculty's camaraderie, shared worldview, and deep investment in students help them live out Dordt's Task and Framework.
What should the role of short-term mission trips be? Dordt staff reimagine AMOR, and alumni in missions suggest ways that shortterm mission trips can help rather than hurt.
Dordt's journalism program, headed by veteran journalist Lee Pitts, trains up a new generation for a world in need of good reporting.
hile serving as leader of the AMOR trip to Cambodia this winter, I was reminded of how powerful behaviors can be. Traveling the potholed dirt roads of rural Cambodia, I spoke with my team’s translator about why he converted from Buddhism to Christianity. Most of his family still practices Buddhism, and his faith makes him a bit of an outsider. He said he’d known about Christianity for years but only became interested in learning more when he met Christians who spoke truth and also sought to live it.
ENGINEERING THE FUTURE
TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH
Jim Schaap explains how Mitch Menning ('96) has played his fair share of Dordt bingo over the years.
In a very small way, that’s what my AMOR team did in Cambodia: We tried to live out our faith through how we behaved. The way we acted mattered, even when it was just being open and asking questions; one World Renew volunteer told me that she hoped her children would turn out to be as brave and kind-hearted as the five Dordt students who went on the trip. This issue features many people who live out their faith through their daily work. You’ll read about Dordt history faculty who bring life to history, a student who experienced agriculture in Paraguay, an occupational therapist who recently adopted a daughter, and more. Whether in Sioux Center, Iowa, or in Siem Reap, Cambodia, our words and our daily actions are our witness “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
SARAH MOSS (ʼ10), EDITOR
LEARNING TO FAIL NEWS
Computer Science Professor Kari Sandouka wants her students to experience failure as they learn about information system design. That was one reason why she decided to have her students build and program Dexter GoPiGo robots in her information system design course last fall. “I wanted students to think about how they can adjust when things break down unexpectedly,” says Sandouka. Sandouka gave her class five Raspberry Pi robot car kits and split the class into four teams of three people. Each team had the freedom to decide what they wanted their robots to do—navigate an obstacle course, take pictures of other objects, or follow a line. The students could adapt code Sandouka gave them or write their own. “Having a working product was extra credit,” says Sandouka. “I wanted the students to take something that wasn’t theirs—that they hadn’t built entirely by hand—and adapt it to make it work.”
JAMIN VER VELDE (99)
Failure was part of the process; three of the robots encountered coding problems or sensor issues, and one team’s robot did not work at all. Sandouka thinks that failing in the classroom will help students understand how to respond to questions or problems in the workplace.
“I tell the students that people will come to them and say, ‘This isn’t working.’ They’ll need to be the expert and determine how to figure out how to solve that problem,” says Sandouka. “There’s a customer service aspect of understanding how to troubleshoot and figure out problems without getting frustrated.” Group work was also an K. Sandouka important part of the learning process for the students. “A few students would have liked to just do the work on their own,” says Sandouka. “But a lot of businesses now have a bull pit area rather than separate cubicles for workers. People are collaborating in the workplace, so students need to understand how to work with all kinds of people.” Sandouka had each team designate one person to handle coding, one to deal with documentation, and one to lead the final presentation. Having to take a robot from defunct to functioning and talk about that process with their classmates sometimes pushed students outside their comfort zones.
Sandouka’s students appreciated the challenge. One team programmed their robot to go through an obstacle course. Dylan Vander Berg, a junior computer science and actuarial science double major, wrote most of the robot’s code from scratch. It took his team nearly eight hours to build and program their robot. “All my programming experience has been straight software, so it was cool to program a robot and see it do things in the real world,” says Vander Berg. “I wish we could have had a little more time to see all we could do with the robots,” says Dan Kelly, a sophomore computer science major who led the team presentation. “You can do some pretty cool stuff with them.” Sandouka plans to have her students spend even more time with the robots in the future. “Often coders just want to code,” says Sandouka. “They don’t think about the full life cycle of something. With this project they had to think about all the steps from start to finish.” SARAH MOSS (’10)
JAMIN VER VELDE (99)
Nursing is one of Dordt's top five majors, with 95 students currently enrolled in the program.
NURSING CHANGES BRING STUDENTS BACK TO DORDT T
his fall, Dordt will end its collaboration with St. Luke’s College and begin a brand-new nursing program. The program is moving from the St. Luke’s campus in Sioux City to Dordt’s campus in Sioux Center. The new curriculum will be conceptbased, with each year having a different focus: learning and adaptation in year one, wellness and health promotion in year two, chronic and predictable conditions in year three, and acute and complex conditions in year four.
“The new courses and clinicals are based on God’s Word, equipping students with professional knowledge, skills, and wisdom,” says Associate Provost Leah Zuidema. “Our graduates will have a deep understanding of each area of nursing care that they can apply wherever they serve.”
“Staying on campus will allow us to participate more fully in campus life and mingle with other students,” says Holly Hiemstra, a junior nursing major. Nursing students on Dordt’s campus will have access to a hospital-like laboratory setting with a state-of-theart simulation studio. Students will also participate in direct patient care in over 24 area hospitals and clinics such as Sanford Health in Sioux Falls and Orange City Area Health Center in Orange City. Dr. Deb Bomgaars, nursing instructor and head of the department, looks forward to having nursing students be a more integral part of college life. “They can walk into our offices any time they need to, and we’ll be with them from beginning to end, rather than just admitting them as freshman and then teaching them as seniors,” says Bomgaars. “We’ll get to watch them grow through the whole program.”
ake Van Wyk retired in 2014 to spend more time as a printmaker and clay artist. However, when the chance came for him to teach Introduction to Ceramics again at Dordt, he decided to step back into the classroom. “This was always my favorite course to teach,” says Van Wyk. “Clay has a rich history, and the mystery of glaze combinations always creates surprising and exciting results. Plus, teaching a single course allows me to devote more time and energy sharing the process with my students.” For the past two fall semesters, Van Wyk has taught students how to use a pottery wheel, how to incorporate techniques that ceramicists have used for centuries, and how a kiln works. “They also research a historic period of ceramic art and present to the class,” says Van Wyk. “The students produce great art,” he says. “Their experiments with glazes and techniques inspire me, too. It’s a very gratifying experience to teach this class again.” SARAH MOSS (’10)
JONATHAN FICTORIE (20)
Bringing nursing students to Dordt's campus opens up doors that weren't available while the program was in Sioux City. “We get to share our Christian perspective every semester,” says Nursing Instructor Melanie Wynja. “The nursing staff will be able to better fulfill their mission of teaching students to ‘live out nursing practice to bring glory to God.’”
Instead of making two to four trips to Sioux City each week, students will leave campus for clinicals only once per week.
VAN WYK RETURNS TO THE POTTER’S WHEEL AT DORDT
ERIKA BUITER (’21)
ROSKAMP CREATES HIS OWN OFF-CAMPUS OPPORTUNITY What do you do if you are a Dordt agriculture major itching to get some international field experience, but Dordt doesn’t offer an ag-specific off-campus program? You design your own, of course. PHOTO SUBMITTED
Senior Sam Roskamp worked with his academic adviser, Dordt’s global education office, his parents, and local contacts to arrange a semester program in Paraguay last fall. Roskamp stayed at a high school where 150 high school students maintain and manage the school and the school’s farm in addition to taking academic courses. Roskamp oversaw a new hydroponic system and participated in a reforestation project. He also worked with other agricultural institutions to graft mango trees and tomato plants, market medicinal plants, tour with a Korean extension group partnering with poor farmers, and work in a Taiwanese extension group’s greenhouse. “I went to Paraguay not necessarily to help teach other students what I had been learning, but to get a pulse on the country’s culture, political infrastructure, worldviews, economic well-being, and everything that defines it,” says Roskamp. “Before we can think of aiding and assisting those living under poorer conditions than ourselves, we need to understand the various forces that influence the conditions and circumstances that they are in.” Roskamp’s father, who spends much of his time in Paraguay, agrees that it is important to live in a culture to understand it. “General principles, whether in ag or other areas, need to be applied uniquely to the challenges of local situations,” says John Roskamp. “Seeing another culture's agriculture, language, climate, and religious environment can deepen your understanding of that culture and the challenges the people there might face.” Roskamp’s semester abroad began by meeting with the global education and
While in Paraguay, Sam Roskamp had a chance to select saplings for a reforestation project. Here, he holds a sapling known as tajy; it is Paraguay’s national tree and blooms during the winter.
agriculture departments to explore what it might take to earn Dordt agriculture credit while living in Paraguay. His parents—who served in Paraguay for 12 years and plan to relocate there again in the near future—were familiar with local Christian schools and agriculture organizations. Part way through the process, they discovered that Roskamp had accumulated enough credits to take the semester off; so, instead of being a Dordt student while in Paraguay, he ended up being a Dordt ambassador, helping build relationships between Paraguayan administrators and Dordt faculty and staff. “Sam’s motivation and dedication to learning agriculture in Paraguay allowed him to persevere and overcome many
challenges,” says Adam Adams, Dordt's director of global education. And because of Roskamp’s time in Paraguay, Dordt’s agriculture department became acquainted with the organizations he served, possibly opening the door to other students who may wish to spend a semester there. “We hope that other students will visit Paraguay to study, apply what they have learned, and, frankly, come to grips with a different part of the world,” says John Roskamp. “We have had wonderful students from Paraguay study at Dordt, and it would be wonderful to have some come the other way.” LYDIA MARCUS ('17)
In early November, Dordt's English department and Andreas Center hosted the fall conference “Culture, Criticism, and the Christian Mind.” “We wanted to put on something that would be engaging and relevant,” says Howard Schaap, an English professor at Dordt. “It was amazing to have Alissa Wilkinson—who was at Sundance not long ago—talking to Scott Teems about writing as a Christian for Narcos and to hear Bradford Winters talk about the morality of Berlin Station. When it was all over, we sat back and said, ‘Yes, that was exactly what we had in mind. That was fun.’” The conference was the latest in a series of bi-annual conferences co-sponsored by the Andreas Center. Through these conferences, the Andreas Center seeks to live out its mission to do “Christian scholarship in public for the common good of the academy, the church, and society.” The November conference theme was chosen, in part, after the prominent journal Books & Culture closed up shop after a run of 21 years. Some see the end of the journal as the end of an era, particularly as a generation of Christian scholars and public intellectuals retires.
The conference hosted a variety of talented speakers from different Christian institutions. John Wilson, former Books & Culture editor, talked with Wes Hill, an author, about the state of Christian scholarship. The audience eavesdropped as these two articulate old friends discussed their mutual love of books. “With all conferences, there’s an element of unpredictability—of ‘chemistry’—in the way things come together,” says Wilson. “But in this case, the chemistry was great.” In the second plenary, Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson, Berlin Station showrunner Bradford Winters, and Rectify writer Scott Teems offered a glimpse into their work in the television and film industry. Having experienced open and respectful conversations about their
faith, they discussed the misperception that the industry is adversarial toward Christians. For the final plenary, James C. Schaap spoke with author Randy Boyagoda about his forthcoming novel: a story of complex familial relationships that is both comedic and deeply moving. Other events during the conference included a podcast recording on T. S. Eliot’s essay “The Idea of a Christian Society,” film screenings of Berlin Station, and a documentary on Hal Holbrook who spent 63 years in a one-man show as Mark Twain. Conference breakout sessions featured topics such as the writings of Cormac McCarthy, the films of Terrence Malick, and race and the church. Evenings were filled with concerts and a poetry open mic night. “I was grateful to see our concept— creating conversation and inviting a broad range of voices, formats, and activities—become reality,” says Bob De Smith, Dordt English professor. “It led to wonderful conversations and lasting connections.” KATE HENRECKSON
“Who will step into the gap?” asks
Dr. David Henreckson, director of the Andreas Center. “Social critics remind us constantly of the shortcomings of American Christianity. We need new signs of hope—occasions to form new friendships and intellectual communities that faithfully pursue artistic and scholarly excellence.”
CULTURE-CREATORS AND CRITICAL THINKERS
Dr. Channon Visscher, chemistry and planetary science professor, was accepted to a project at Oxford University called “Bridging the Two Cultures.” The summer 2018 program, hosted by Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford, will foster interdisciplinary scholarship and dialogue between the sciences and humanities while exploring the relationship between science and faith. Agriculture Professor Duane Bajema received a grant from the Gilchrist Foundation for the promotion of beekeeping in Northwest Iowa. Donald Roth, professor of criminal justice and business administration, presented “Narrative Metaphor: Integrating Modern Insights into Cognition in Order to Develop a Vocabulary and Toolset for Intentionally Shaping our Educational and Vocational Pursuits” at the Kuyers Institute conference at Calvin College in October. Abby Foreman, professor of social work, presented a paper titled “Unity in Diversity? Christian Faith-Based Organizations in Civil Society” at the North American Association of Christian Social Workers in Charlotte, North Carolina, in November. Theology Professor Dr. Benjamin Lappenga presented a paper titled “Participation and the Faithfulness of the Risen Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:11-14 and Galatians 2:19-20” at the Society of Biblical Literature in Boston in November. He also presented “'Formerly a Blasphemer and a Man of Violence’: I Timothy and the Othering of the Jews” at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston.
NEW BUSINESS FACULTY BRING PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE Dordt business majors are reaping the benefits of more than 30 years of workplace experience from its two most recently hired faculty members. Randy Feenstra (‘91), who is currently serving his ninth year as an Iowa state senator, joined the business department this fall after serving as the Iowa State Bank insurance manager for eight years. Feenstra earned his master’s degree in public administration from Iowa State University. R. Feenstra He teaches five courses in the fall, one in the spring, and two during the summer; this allows him to remain a state senator. “I have seen in both business and government the need for Christian men and women to be lights in these arenas,” Feenstra says. “We need passionate leaders there.” Feenstra is working on his doctoral degree in business administration with an emphasis in health care. Because health care has such a prominent place in our national conversation, he hopes to develop more Dordt classes related to health care policies, specifically looking at what a Christian approach might look like. Students have already benefited from his connections to the business world. He brought in leaders from John Deere to interact with students, and he gave students an opportunity to meet with business leaders in Des Moines on the department’s business trip last fall. Sandra (Steenhoek, ’88) Vanden Bosch has been working in the world of finance for nearly 30 years, many of them at Kinseth Hospitality Companies. At Kinseth, Vanden Bosch was the senior finance and accounting officer and oversaw the accounting, IT, and human resources departments.
Vanden Bosch began teaching as an adjunct in the business department in August of 2016. She taught World Behavior and Corporate Finance on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; on Mondays and Fridays, she returned to Cedar Rapids to work at Kinseth. “One of my main roles at Kinseth was to mentor and develop and grow people,” says Vanden Bosch. “I hope to use my professional experience to do that at Dordt.” Vanden Bosch found that the more ways she could be useful to her company, the more opportunities arose. She wants her students to learn how to be valuable employees and handle situations with a Christ-like mentality. “I want to show them what kind of witness they can provide regardless of who they work for," she says.
OLIVIA HELMUS (ʼ21)
“Professor Vanden Bosch brings a high level of professionalism and pushes us to think strategically,” says Dr. Brian Hoekstra, chair of the department. Sandy Vanden Bosch teaches a variety of courses, including “Professor Strategic HR Management Feenstra is hard and Accounting Information working and pays Systems. great attention to detail; his wealth of experience and knowledge have already become extremely valuable.” Hoekstra and his colleagues are grateful for the depth of experience the new faculty add to their team. DANNY MOOERS (’18)
MOTION BIOMECHANICS RESEARCH TO HELP VOLLEYBALL ATHLETES t was a remarkable season for the Dordt women’s volleyball team. The Defenders earned a runner-up finish at the NAIA National Championship for the second year in a row and ended the season with a 38-4 record. For Haley Moss, the 6-6 opposite hitter and senior from Boyden, Iowa, the season was a win from behind.
Frisch is currently working with Dordt students, athletic trainers, and Volleyball Coach Chad Hanson to learn more about how force affects the shoulder during a volleyball hit. Using Dordt’s motion biomechanics laboratory, Frisch and her student assistants are studying all aspects of a volleyball spike: motion, force, and muscle activity.
Moss developed a passion for volleyball at a young age; with the support of her parents and coaches, she became a formidable athlete. But as her proficiency on the court increased, so did the pain in her right shoulder. In her senior year of high school, Moss was diagnosed with a torn labrum—in her case, a condition caused by the wear and tear of activity and overuse.
“Our findings have the potential to impact the volleyball community by
“Shoulder pain is common in young volleyball players, but there are no good explanations for what causes it or how to prevent it,” says Engineering Professor Dr. Kayt Frisch, who specializes in biomechanics. “Even though as many high school girls play volleyball as boys play baseball, baseball shoulder pain and injury have been studied extensively, while volleyball shoulder problems have not.”
with little hope of returning to the court. To the surprise of all, she was cleared to play in early November—just in time for the NAIA championships and a record career finish. “It’s still hard not to cry when I think back over the past few years,” says Moss. “To finish the season on the court pain-free in the championship game is just an amazing experience, and one I truly didn’t think was possible.”
“To play with no limitations, and no fear of pain or recurring injury, is all any athlete hopes for.” — Haley Moss, senior
leading to improved training techniques for volleyball players at all levels and a better understanding of injury cause, prevention, and treatment,” Frisch says. “To play with no limitations, and no fear of pain or recurring injury, is all any athlete hopes for,” says Moss. She had surgery the summer before her freshman year at Dordt but endured a repeat tear and two seasons of cortisone shots to help her compete at the collegiate level. Moss elected for surgery in April of 2017,
“The hope is that, through Dr. Frisch’s research, coaches will ultimately gain a greater understanding of how the shoulder works so they can better instruct athletes on arm swing mechanics,” says Hanson. “We want athletes like Haley to be able to play pain-free and to enjoy this sport for as long as they want to enjoy it.” KAREN VAN SCHOUWEN (‘01) AND SARAH MOSS (’10) JAMIN VER VELDE ('99)
Success has been a long-time attribute of both the men’s and women’s crosscountry teams at Dordt; this past fall was no exception. Dordt hosted two cross-country events this year: the Defender Holiday Inn Express Classic in early September and the GPAC Championships in early November. The women’s team won both of those meets, and the men placed fourth and third, respectively.
JONATHAN FICTORIE (ʼ20)
XC THROUGH THE DORDT PRAIRIE
Hosting the two meets was significant because, for the past several years, Dordt has turned down the opportunity since the college did not have a course. Last summer, with the help of Dordt maintenance staff, a new course was created in Dordt’s restored tallgrass prairie. It began in the summer of 2015 when President Hoekstra asked Cross-Country Coach Nate Wolf if the team could host a meet in the prairie. Wolf began plotting a course, frequently running through the prairie using a GPS. Dordt’s prairie is not large enough to run the race in one large loop, so maintenance staff and Wolf measured out a course that had two loops for the women’s race and three for the men’s. Grounds Supervisor Stanley Haak, Agriculture Stewardship Center Steward Mike Schouten, and Environmental Studies Professor Dr. Robert De Haan
Nine colleges and universities including Dordt participated in the Defender Holiday Inn Express Classic in September. Alumni from Dordt's cross-country team also had the opportunity to race.
worked hard to prepare the course for the meet in early September. “We had to reseed the start and finish area, rolling it three times to smooth out the bumps and pack it down,” says Wolf. “Because it was farmland, this required some work. The maintenance guys were great to work with. The first time we ran on it, the grass was cut to three inches. I asked them to cut it a quarter inch shorter, and they did.” The course began and finished on the east side of the soccer fields. The women ran a five-kilometer (3.1 miles) loop that extended from East 1st Avenue on the south side of the prairie to 5th St. N.E. behind the Campus Center. The women ran the 1.5-mile loop twice. The men’s eight-kilometer (4.97 miles) course had a similar but slightly longer 1.65-mile loop, taking them behind the Southview Apartments. They ran it three times. Many cross-country races are held on golf courses, but the distances can make it hard for fans to see as much as they would like. Dordt’s course combined what
both runners and spectators want: wideopen spaces with many good places for fans to watch individual runners. “A lot of courses have a few viewing areas for fans,” Wolf says. “Dordt’s course allowed fans to watch the athletes make their moves. At most races, fans see the runners for a short while before they disappear from sight. When they see them again different runners are out front.” Dordt’s prairie is a space shared by the entire campus. Maintenance, the biology department, agriculture groups, students, and the community use it in a variety of ways: research, relaxation, recreation. The new cross-country course may have added one more group of regular users, but there is still plenty for everyone to enjoy. “It is a great course to run on,” says Britta Provart, a senior cross-country runner. “To be able to share our talent with the campus and share our beautiful campus with our competitors was an experience I will not forget.” DANNY MOOERS (’18)
STEM FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN ENHANCES THE SCIENCES JAMIN VER VELDE ('99)
wenty students stare intently through hood glass at the artificial odors they are synthesizing. The low hum of fume hood fans fills the room—yet the chemical odors do not, in spite of the smelly substances students are mixing. The hoods are doing their job, and students’ noses reap the benefits.
Cleaner air is just one of many advantages the recent Science and Technology Center renovations have given science students and faculty. Funded by a two-phase campaign that began in 2008 and recently met its goal of $27 million, the renovated spaces also offer larger modern laboratories and workspaces. “The new laboratories are better suited to the increased class sizes that we have been enjoying as a result of growing interest in STEM,” says Brittany De Ruyter (‘10), a lab instructor at Dordt. “We were bursting at the seams before the renovation, and now we can accommodate more students in our highdemand courses without compromising learning objectives.” The larger, safer labs also offer opportunities for collaboration between students and for instructors to engage students individually. “This is already enhancing the mentor-
FINDING A HOME After moving back into the labs, the chemistry faculty and staff found that they had excess glassware and related equipment. Chemistry Professor Dr. Carl Fictorie offered the unneeded supplies to school science teachers at an in-service day in August, but only a handful of things disappeared. So, Admissions Counselor Nathan Spaans (’17) suggested that Dordt chemistry graduate Braden Homan (’17) might be interested in the lab supplies. Homan teaches high school science at Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico. “A few texts and phone calls later, the equipment had a new home,” says Fictorie.
Additions to the Science and Technology Center include a computational chemistry lab, a new greenhouse, and a high-bay workspace.
apprentice relationship that we strive for with our students,” says Chemistry Professor Dr. Carl Fictorie. Project-based learning spaces and new equipment are also making it possible for students to engage in a wider range of research and design projects. For example, Dordt students have used the qPCR machine to do research for Entegro, a local probiotics company. Another improvement biology students are excited about is the addition of a cadaver lab, where students can study human anatomy on an actual body. The new spaces and equipment allow more students to do independent lab work. “I have my own space under the fume hood, so I can work more independently and don’t have to spend my time waiting to use chemicals under a hood,” says Abbey Bos, a junior chemistry major. Dordt seniors, who have seen the Science and Technology Center transform from
its partially renovated state in 2014 to its current glory, are particularly appreciative of the benefits offered by the improvements. “There is a world of difference in the working environment created by the new updates,” says Alex Werkhoven, a senior agriculture major. “The renovations have created a more inviting environment— the brighter walls, floors, and improved lighting really make it an enjoyable space to work in.” “We definitely have a generous and committed donor constituency that believes in our mission and vision,” says Vice President for Advancement John Baas, who coordinated the fundraising for the renovation. “They want to make an impact in the lives of our students and, through them, in God’s kingdom. That is a tremendous encouragement to those of us who serve here.” LYDIA MARCUS (’17)
DEFENDER FOOTBALL: MORE THAN A GAME Dordt’s football team under Coach Joel Penner had its best year in team history, but its impact has extended far beyond the field’s boundary markers and goal posts.
While De Boer has enjoyed seeing the team become a serious competitor for opponents, the most rewarding thing for him has been to be a part of the host family program that pairs families from the Sioux County area with Dordt football players from all parts of the country.
ADRI VAN GRONINGEN (ʼ18)
“The host family program allows you to meet a lot of great kids who also happen to play football,” says De Boer.
This program may be one of the reasons many people seem to be buying into Dordt football. The team’s growing popularity is partly because of the way players execute the game, but it is also because of the way they live their lives outside of football.
Rod De Boer, a Dordt football fan since the team began in 2007, has watched the program grow through several winless seasons to last year’s 5-5 record-breaking year.
Through the host family program, players can connect with people in the Sioux County community and enjoy a home-cooked meal.
On the field, the team has adopted the term “the ninth team” for those who sit on the sideline. “It refers to the energy that players who aren’t in the game bring to the team,” says Nicholas Carbone, freshman offensive lineman. The sideline is called the ninth team because they aren’t on one of the eight major parts that make up a football team: defense, offense, kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, field goal, and field goal block. However, those sitting on the
sideline can have a big impact on the game; Dordt’s ninth team does, and their energy has crept its way into the Dordt community. Dr. Mary Dengler, who directs the Kuyper Scholars Program and teaches English, describes the football players in her classes as “dedicated, hard-working, and academically serious young men.” She appreciates their diligence in their studies, despite the challenges that being involved in football can bring. Dordt football players are standing out in a beleaguered sport. “I enjoy two things about the football players in my classes: They fill the front rows, and they call me ‘sir,’” says Dr. Bob De Smith, an English professor. “It’s not that I need to be addressed that way, but it’s a nice reminder that respect between teachers and students is worthwhile.” Dordt football players are active in
Players, coaches, and fans are all invited to the postgame "attaways," an open opportunity to verbally recognize all the positive pieces of the game—win or lose.
the community, too. Many of them volunteer at local elementary and middle schools as mentors, tutors, and friends. Team members make up about eight percent of the student body on campus, but the way they move in packs makes their numbers appear even larger. The team shares a brotherhood—an inclusive one, where even non-football players are welcomed.
Associate Provost Dr. Leah Zuidema was elected vice president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and assumed her office in November. The NCTE is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education.
Eighteen Dordt students attended the Global Health Missions Health conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The conference focused on medical mission work. Dordt’s emphasis in Human Resource (HR) Management now fully aligns with the curriculum guidebook of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This will enable senior HR students to sit for the SHRM-Certified Professional exam once they have 500 hours of experience instead of having to complete the one year of post-graduation experience otherwise required by SHRM.
“Great college football in our rulebook is bigger than just the score after the game or a record after a season,” says Penner. “When it is all said and done, football at Dordt ought to be a light in the often dark world of competition.” Dordt’s football team is using their sport as a platform for positive change in both the college and community. JUSTIN BANKS (’19)
Four Dordt agriculture students received the American FFA Degree, an award given to fewer than one percent of FFA members. The recipients were Madi Anderson, Callie Freeman, Sarah Goyne, and Georgia Lucas. Qualifications for the award include earning the State FFA Degree, being an active member for the previous three years, and completing at least three years’ worth of secondary school instruction in agricultural education. Dordt Digital Media Instructor Mark Volkers and students Ben Kuiper and Ellen Inggrid Dengah (’17) created a video for the Family Crisis Center in Sioux Center to bring awareness about domestic violence. The project won a gold Davey Award and gold MarCom award. Dordt is now the first and only Avid Learning Partner (ALP) in Iowa. Digital Media Instructor Mark Volkers passed tests to become an Avid Certified Instructor (ACI), making Dordt an ALP. Volkers will be able to administer exams to students so they can become Avid Certified Users (ACUs). Avid Technology is the industry standard post-production software in the filmmaking industry. Provost Dr. Eric Forseth was appointed chair of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Regional Accreditation Council. There are presently 44 CCCU member institutions in the HLC region. Vocal Instructor Deb Vogel is a member of the South Dakota Chorale, which was nominated for three Grammy Awards: Best Engineered Album-Classical, Best Surround Sound Album, and Producer of the Year-Classical. Vogel also attended the National Association of Teachers of Singing, along with Pam DeHaan and 10 students. James Ryan, a junior at Dordt, placed as a semi-finalist.
Dual Citizenship: What Does It Mean to be a Christian and a Citizen of the U.S.? IN ALL THINGS E X PLORE S T HE CONCRE T E IMPLIC ATIONS OF CHRIS T’S PRE SENCE IN A L L FACE T S OF LIFE
One of my Facebook friends posted a rather bizarre photo a couple of years ago. He and his sons professed a fervent evangelical Christian faith and a strong dedication to the “Tea Party” political ideologies of very limited government and few taxes. They are strong proponents of constitutional originalism. The picture that I reference showed him wearing a minuteman costume and a tricorn hat, handing out copies of the United States Constitution to people at a local supermarket. At the time, it struck me how much this looked like an evangelist handing out tracts and “street witnessing.” Such evangelists trust and pray that the illumination of the Spirit and a natural sense of the text will guide their novice readers enough to receive Christ. It also struck me how much my friend had conflated his Christian identity and his American citizenship, philosophically and methodologically. He assumed a sort of parallel between a “divinely inspired” constitution to complement his inspired Bible along with the same very basic interpretive system for both. And, just as he believed reading the words of plain Scripture can transform lives, he also believed a person reading this complicated eighteenth-century document would naturally arrive at conclusions that would make them productive Christian citizens and ardent originalists. Christians enjoy both the benefits and the inherent tensions of being a people
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON:
of two worlds no matter where they live. Whether one resides in a kingdom, a dictatorship, or a democracy, Christians stand immersed in this temporal world while also representing the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus said that he has chosen us out of this world (John 15:19), but also that we are to, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). An important key to leveraging the opportunities our citizenship provides for the common good lies in properly understanding the nature of American democracy, the nature of Christianity, and the realities of American cultural pluralism in the twenty-first century. For example, one important distinction between American democracy and the Christian faith stems from the central mission of each. The republic created by the founding generation provided a governmental structure that maximized personal and national autonomy in service of the ideal that all “men,” eventually all people, are created equal. The natural implication of such ideals is cultural pluralism and diversity of thought.
human beings have intrinsic worth. We can cooperate on the basis of a common belief that all humans have value. For Christians, the greatest challenge for responsible citizenship is the tension between belief in the worth of all humans and the doctrine of salvation exclusively through Christ alone. Christian citizens sometimes struggle to grasp that it is not within the government’s proper sphere of authority to do the work of evangelism by compulsion. Christians must understand the fundamental reality that creating a tolerant and fair playing field for themselves means creating one for everyone. After all, coerced faith is no faith at all. We should be among the foremost champions of freedom of speech and of religion for all. Christian
Whether one resides in a kingdom, a dictatorship, or a democracy, Christians stand immersed in this temporal world while also representing the kingdom of God on earth.
By virtue of creation and God’s common grace, Christians can also affirm that all
citizens benefit American society most when they understand that they must respect the right of other Americans to believe differently—or not believe at all—even as they earnestly communicate their faith. In addition, Christian citizens support their nation best when they are both patriotic and prophetic. Rendering to
In All Things is a journal for critical reflection on faith, culture, art, and every ordinary-yet-graced square inch of God’s creation. We want to expand our imagination for what the Christian life— and life of the mind—can accomplish. In pursuit of this end, we will engage in conversation with diverse voices across a wide range of traditions, places, and times.
Caesar means voting, paying taxes, and being informed about issues, both national and local. It means advocacy for the weak, welcome for the stranger, and sacrifice for the common good. Christians should serve as a moral compass for the nation, something that is hard to do if Christians allow themselves to become the property of one political party or subservient to one set of special interests. We then give Caesar what belongs to God. Like the court prophets of Ahab (1 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 18), we lose our credibility and doom our listeners if we begin to parrot anyone’s party line rather than the ethical and moral principles we have gleaned from Scripture. Loving what is good about our nation and holding leaders to a high ethical standard should not be mutually exclusive. American Christians get to live in a society in which we have the ability to do significant good in public life. Unfortunately, we spend too much time complaining about the freedoms we fear we may lose, and neglect to practice those freedoms while we have them. Exercise your rights and responsibilities this year in such a way that people will see your good works and give thanks for the presence of sincere Christian citizens.
K. SCOTT CULPEPPER
Physics Professor Dr. John Zwart presented a talk co-prepared with Dr. Carl Fictorie at the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) conference in Cincinnati last July. The talk was titled “Developing Student Understanding: A Course in Philosophy and Theology of Science.”
Education Professor Dr. David Mulder gave two presentations at the Association for Educational Communication and Technology conference in Jacksonville, Florida, in November. The first was titled “Voices of Doctoral Students at a Distance” and the second “Advising Students in a Fully Online Doctoral Program: What We Learned.” Professor Emeritus of English Dr. James Calvin Schaap received the Carol Mashek Endowed Award in Women’s History for his paper “Faith Meets Grief: The Arduous Calvinist Piety of Renske DeJong Hiemstra.” He received the award from the Center for Western Studies at Augustana University in Sioux Falls. Schaap also recently self-published a novel, Looking for Dawn. His radio program “Small Wonders” has now aired for a year on Siouxland Public Media (KWIT) in Sioux City. History Professor Dr. Walker Cosgrove was one of 21 faculty selected to participate in a seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., last July. The seminar was titled “The Verbal Art of Plato.” Communication Professor Dr. Charles Veenstra was elected president of the International Listening Association (ILA) in June 2017; his term will last for one year. The ILA promotes the study of listening and serves as a resource network as well as a worldwide community. Statistics Professor Dr. Nathan Tintle has published five collaborative papers since summer 2017. Titles include “Analyzing Metabolomics Data for Association with Genotypes Using Two-Component Gaussian Mixture Distributions,” “Omega-6 Fatty Acid Biomarkers and Incident Type 2 Diabetes: A Pooled Analysis of 20 Cohort Studies,” and “Genome-Wide Interaction Study of Omega-3 PUFAs and Other Fatty Acids on Inflammatory Biomarkers of Cardiovascular Health in the Framingham Heart Study.” Nursing Professor Dr. Deb Bomgaars was awarded the American Nurses Association Northwest Iowa Region “Nurse of the Year” honor for 2017. Economics Professor Dr. Jan van Vliet was invited to be a part of a book panel of four scholars that focused on his translation of On Islam, a journal-style record of Abraham Kuyper’s trip around the Mediterranean Sea in the early 1900s. The panel was held in February. Dr. Bradley Miedema, associate professor of music, was selected to participate in the University of Central Florida Conductors Symposium in February. Miedema conducted one of the symposium ensembles, received feedback and instruction from featured clinicians, and contributed to seminar sessions on conducting technique and pedagogy. Environmental Studies Professor Dr. Robb De Haan and Dr. Kristin Van De Griend, assistant adjunct social work professor, hosted a Community Health Evangelism (CHE) training event at Dordt in February. CHE training is designed to introduce participants to a holistic approach to ministry and evangelism.
BRINGING LIFE TO FEATURES
HISTORY KATE HENRECKSON
There’s a buzz as Dr. Scott Culpepper’s Latin America class begins. Students talk excitedly as they snatch name badges from a table. “Did you hear what happened? The president was assassinated between classes!”
In the back of the room, two students whisper shadily together. Asked what they’re talking about, one responds in a hushed tone, “I’m going to take over the government,” and glances around to make sure no one is listening. “Military action. Shhh.”
Villa escaped, and there was another assassination—”
The class is called to order. A student steps to the podium, gavel in hand. “A lot of bad things have happened since my presidency ended,” she begins. “Pancho
With a sharp motion for him to be silent, the president continues. “We are here to consider the petition allowing women to run for the presidency. Votes in favor?” Hands begin to rise.
“That happened before I escaped,” Pancho Villa interjects sullenly, slouching down in his chair. “I had nothing to do with it.”
Suddenly the peaceful meeting is interrupted by a loud voice from the back of the room. Pascual Orozco strides to the front of the class. “I’m taking over the government by force!” The now-former president protests, but is quickly silenced. “And the new Secretary of War shall be…” continues Orozco, “…Pancho Villa!” Pancho Villa lets out a loud whoop. “We’re goin’ to war with America!”
“Dordt’s Task and Framework talk about the importance of Christian perspective. Students hear these words often, but don’t understand how it comes into practice. When you give them a different historical perspective to embody–using the same texts, but arguing different things from it– everything becomes clearer.” —Dr. Paul Fessler, history professor
A REMARKABLE DEPARTMENT It’s obvious: this is no ordinary history class. It is a simulation from Reacting to the Past, a series of elaborate games designed to immerse students in a specific historical event. A variety of simulation units are used in Dordt history classes: the French Revolution, the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and Henry VIII, among others. In each simulation, students are given specific persons, situations, and conditions to enact. They read original sources to understand how to accomplish their character’s goals, and students must stay in character—even when it goes against their own personality. Their grade is based on how well they achieve their objectives, how they participate in debates, how much effort they put in, and how well-written their assignments are. “Dordt’s Task and Framework talk about the importance of Christian perspective,”
says Dr. Paul Fessler, one of Dordt’s history professors. “Students hear these words often, but don’t understand how it comes into practice. When you give them a different historical perspective to embody—using the same texts, but arguing different things from it— everything becomes clearer. They realize, 'Oh, this is what ‘worldview’ means.' It gives them a greater understanding of different perspectives without shaking their own.” For Fessler, even though they are only one of many teaching styles to use, simulations help students discern the spirits of the age and see how concepts, policies, and actions emerge from different worldviews. They also teach students to develop empathy in their own lives. “Students are fully immersed in the time period,” says Culpepper. “They feel what it’s like to be this real person in history,
who is very different from themselves. This understanding goes beyond the classroom, which is really magical.” Reacting to the Past simulations are only one of the things that make Dordt’s history department remarkable. The history department is known for the strong community they develop with their students. In addition to two annual get-togethers, faculty members host students for events like movie nights, game nights, and even a cookout that simulates colonial cuisine. Each semester on the first night of finals, the history department hosts what has become known as “Quarter Dog Night.” They set up around 9 p.m. in the Campus Center and sell hot dogs and root beer for only a quarter. Students get a break and some food to power through their studies, and the history faculty get to connect with the campus community. Often the professors’ entire families come to serve hot dogs. JAMIN VER VELDE (99)
Studying history is more than just learning names and dates. “I want to make history come alive, to help students understand what it meant to live in other cultures and times,” says Dr. Scott Culpepper. “It stretches their ability to interact beyond their own small world. There’s profound wisdom to be gained.”
From left to right: History faculty Dr. Scott Culpepper, Dr. Mark McCarthy, Dr. Paul Fessler, and Dr. Walker Cosgrove converse in the history department pod.
“I’m continually amazed in each class I take,” adds Anna Bierma, a senior. “They’re so knowledgeable. Ask them any question, and they’ll know the answer. And they work in a cross-disciplinary way; they see our goals and shape what they’re teaching to our needs.” Students remember this deep investment years after graduation. “My history professors were probably one of my favorite parts of Dordt,” says alumna Maria TeKolste (’16). “They were amazing teachers. I still keep in touch with all of them.” President Erik Hoekstra has dinner with every freshman student at Dordt, and he always asks them about their
“I appreciate how engaged with students the history faculty are,” says junior Jonathan Beltman. “They are really willing to put themselves out there. They show you why history is so important and how to use lessons from the past to tackle current issues.”
favorite class. “Over the years, the core history courses come up with inordinate frequency—and it doesn’t seem to matter which professor the student had,” says Hoekstra. “These are core classes that students at most colleges think of as ‘ugh’ classes, but at Dordt, they’re favorites. It’s a credit to the history faculty’s commitment to excellence in teaching and their team approach to their work.”
MEET THE PROFESSORS The flamboyant, almost fluorescent yellow walls of the history department pod suit the department members. A constant stream of laughter floats from the offices and down the hallway. The history department comprises four fulltime professors: Fessler, Culpepper, Dr. Mark McCarthy, and Dr. Walker Cosgrove. Fessler is the most longstanding member of the department, arriving at Dordt in 2002. Fessler’s smile is mischievous, his hilarity contagious. He received his
Fessler with his tribble: a furry creature from Star Trek that coos when petted.
master’s and Ph.D. from Texas A & M University. “I wanted to teach somewhere that had
The other three faculty members were hired in 2012. All shared a deep excitement about the mission and vision of the college and, in particular, about the core program.
disciplines,” says Culpepper. “It’s exciting to me that we’re training not only history teachers, but people who may go into government or law or other fields.” McCarthy has a delightful, dry sense of humor. After completing a master’s in Russian literature and a Ph.D. in European history from the University of Notre Dame, he taught for eight years at Montreat College in North Carolina.
“This is by far the best departmental situation I’ve ever been a part of,” says Culpepper. “It’s a great community of Christian scholars. We have fun. We love what we do. We may enjoy it a little too much sometimes,” he adds with a chortle. “We all get along,” adds McCarthy. “That might not seem like a big deal. But it really is.”
a purpose, a mission, somewhere that would make a difference,” he says. “I was previously at a college that called itself Christian, but didn’t have an integrated Christian perspective at its core. When I read Dordt’s foundational documents, I saw a holistic approach—where history was tied to all other areas and the curriculum was held together by a common framework. It was the kind of Christian education I was looking for, helping students grow and gain the wisdom that comes from the fear of God.”
“Often, we’ll kid and mock each other,”
“I love teaching the core classes because I get to interact with students from other disciplines. It’s exciting to me that we’re training not only history teachers, but people who may go into government or law or other fields.” —Dr. Scott Culpepper, history professor
“Jesuits have a strong emphasis on liberal arts and believe that all students should be taught in an integrated, cross-disciplinary way. Protestants aren’t always good at that,” says Cosgrove. “But Dordt is different. Dordt’s Task and Framework are very intentional in setting up what education should look like.”
For McCarthy, one of the chief draws of Dordt was the shared Reformed Kuyperian worldview. “It’s a way of taking academic work and faith seriously,” he says. For him and his colleagues, the two are inextricably intertwined.
says Fessler. “I get mocked more than anybody else—maybe because of my tribble.” He lifts a strange furry ball off his desk and sets it in his lap. It purrs when he touches it. “It’s from Star Trek. Walker makes fun of it—”
Asked what they most loved about the history department, the history faculty all agreed: the close connection they share within the department.
“Because it’s creepy,” Cosgrove quips from the other room. “None of us take ourselves too seriously. We’re like a family. We accept each other for who we
For Cosgrove, Dordt’s core program was reminiscent of his Jesuit education at St. Louis University, where he earned his Ph.D. Cosgrove dresses professorially in vests and scarves and, as a medievalist, adorns his office with reproductions of exquisite works of sacred art.
Culpepper was also drawn to Dordt because of the cross-disciplinary focus of the core classes. With degrees in history and theology from both seminaries and universities, Culpepper was uniquely positioned to teach in the core program. Before earning his Ph.D. at Baylor University, he was also a pastor in Louisiana and Mississippi. His areas of interest include early modern European history and U.S. religion and popular culture. Warm and welcoming, Culpepper bedecks his office with paraphernalia from a wide variety of fandoms: Marvel, Doctor Who, Star Wars, and more. “I love teaching the core classes because I get to interact with students from other
Junior Jonathan Beltman plays an anti-federalist for Fessler's "America's Founding" simulation.
are, regardless of political or theological differences—or idiosyncrasies. Everyone can both give and take. That’s rare in the academy, where there are a lot of a fragile egos. I appreciate that. Most of the time,” he adds wryly.
A SHARED VISION The comradery and whimsy grow out of what truly draws the department together: their shared vision. That close personal connection allows them to work toward a common purpose.
out of who they are. It helps me reflect on myself and how I approach my own teaching.” “In Core 140 and 145, we look at the development of worldview,” says Fessler. “How has truth been considered throughout the ages? How does a Reformed perspective pull things together? That’s not an overarching theme you’re going to get if you take history at most places. Students may not
“We might disagree with how that plays out,” says Cosgrove, “but the key is understanding that what we worship affects all that we do—whether politics, economics, warfare, or scholarship.” “History is not an objective science,” he adds. “There are no definitive answers; you’re always coming at it from a perspective. And any worldview comes out of our deepest heart convictions. Dordt’s Educational Task describes how
“Anybody with a degree of humility would admit that it’s hard to get a grasp on how to think Christianly. By meeting on a regular basis, we can pursue that together. It ensures that a similar perspective will guide our core classes.” who we are as Christians is integral to everything we do. It’s not that I’m a historian and I need to integrate Christianity into my discipline and teaching. Christianity is at the core—of who I am as a human and how I teach history. I try to help students see that.” KATE HENRECKSON
For Cosgrove, the key to understanding worldview is not talking about it, but living it. He feels strongly enough about this that each semester he sits in on a colleague’s course—for every single class. By observing how others live and teach, he tries to understand how they think about teaching Christianly. “I could sit down and ask them what teaching Christianly means to them, and they could give me good words,” he says. “But watching them live it out gives me a better answer. The best teachers teach
History also shows the complexity of the human situation: all the factors and dynamics that go into simply getting up in the morning and living, let alone making major political decisions. “Nothing is simple,” says Cosgrove. “I want students to leave my class with more questions. That complexity is a beautiful thing.”
To nurture this collective vision, the four professors meet regularly to study and talk together. They have read and —Dr. Walker Cosgrove, history professor discussed more than a dozen books—along with monographs and remember all the names and dates, but articles—to help them explore and think they will learn that ideas are important, about a Reformed perspective in history. and they will know how to discern the They have read books such as Confessing religious spirit they come from. Nothing History by John Fea, Dealing with Darwin is neutral.” by David Livingstone, and Roots of Western Culture by Herman Dooyeweerd. All of Dordt’s history professors believe What began as an orientation for that history offers an opportunity to new faculty quickly developed into a wrestle with big questions—to help commitment to grow as a department. students understand human beings as religious creatures, as worshippers. “Anybody with a degree of humility would admit that it’s hard to get a grasp on how to think Christianly,” says Cosgrove. “By meeting on a regular basis, we can pursue that together. It ensures that a similar perspective will guide our core classes, which we all love teaching. Even if the classes are different in pedagogy and style, the overriding viewpoint guiding them will be the same.”
SARAH MOSS (10)
AMOR Dordt staff and alumni re-envision the role of short-term mission trips As six Americans from Dordt College and a translator walk into her one-room schoolhouse in Cambodia, Soksa Mon smiles and keeps singing. She curves her hands and feet in traditional Cambodian dance style and nods to her kindergarten students to follow along. A few sing loudly with outstretched arms; the others stand still or run to their mothers who sit on the floor at the back of the small classroom.
After the final verse, Soksa Mon straightens her blue blazer and smooths her hair. She and the visitors greet each other with a sampeah—palms pressed together in front of faces. They ask Soksa Mon questions, and she replies that she has taught at the school for two years, has a ninth grade education, and is only one class away from completing her teaching certificate in Phnom Penh. The visitors scribble in their notebooks and nod. She pulls out a large book and
shows them the detailed lesson plans that she writes out every day. She wants to challenge her students, she stresses, even though she may only teach them for two hours a day. The translator says, “The village had to contribute 30 percent of the costs to construct this schoolhouse, and the village chief donated the land to build it on. That’s the chief’s house over there.” He points out the window to a nearby
“And World Renew worked through the local NGO to help with the rest?” asks a Dordt student.
KENDRA NYDAM ('20)
house on stilts.
The translator nods. “Why do the mothers stay in the classroom?” another student asks. “Some mothers have to walk a kilometer to bring their children to the school, so they’ll often just wait once they get here,” says the translator. Soksa Mon reaches for a nearby black plastic bag and pulls out a rope ladder; she created and painted the ladder herself to make sure the kindergarteners get enough exercise. “Wow,” says a Dordt student. “She really wants her students to succeed.” “It seems like the whole community does,” adds another. Soksa Mon smiles and puts the ladder back in the bag. The kindergarteners have scattered and, as the visitors say “akun”—thank you—and walk outside, the teacher calls the class back to order. This is the new AMOR: Dordt students as learners rather than doers on mission trips during Christmas break. The students want to see what God is doing in developing countries like Cambodia and through the lives of people like Soksa Mon and the kindergarteners she teaches.
Another AMOR trip during Christmas break took Dordt digital media majors to Belize. They worked with Presbyterian Day School in Cristo Rey to interview and shoot footage of school staff; the digital media majors will turn the footage into a fundraising video for the school.
to physically and spiritually transform poor and vulnerable communities. Bun Chanthuon, a World Renew program officer, drove the Dordt students around the Cambodian provinces of Prey Veng and Svay Rieng and introduced them to chicken farmers, kindergarten teachers, vegetable farmers, and village chiefs
how different communities work,” says Geleynse. "We want them to realize that the world is not predominantly Christian and that there are billions of people who are unreached. If we're not willing to get to know people from other religions and cultural backgrounds, then are we going to have a desire to see them worship the
A VISION TRIP AMOR has long stood for “A Mission Outreach,” but Discipleship Coordinator Alex Geleynse has spent the last two years thinking beyond that acronym. “We want AMOR to move from a mission trip to a vision trip,” says Geleynse. “The goal is to see what God is doing in another part of the world, because we believe that Jesus and the gospel go before us.” The five students who went on the AMOR trip to Cambodia experienced this change firsthand. Instead of building houses or painting walls, they learned how World Renew partners with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
“We want AMOR to move from a mission trip to a vision trip. The goal is to see what God is doing in another part of the world, because we believe that Jesus and the gospel go before us.” —Alex Geleynse, discipleship coordinator
who have worked with World Renew and local NGOs. The students saw how rural Cambodians’ lives have improved through World Renew’s health, government, education, and food safety initiatives. “We also want students to experience a different religion and culture, and to see
one, true God?" For three days, the Dordt students stayed with Cambodian families in the rural provinces; some slept on bamboo mats on the floor, and others learned how to cook traditional Cambodian dishes like fish soup and sticky rice. The students
“We found a lot of wisdom in it, and what we learned helped us to completely revamp how we do AMOR,” says Baart. AMOR was originally set up like a shortterm mission trip as defined by Fikkert and Corbett: “ranging from one week to two years, to other locations within North America or around the world… to minister to the physical needs of materially poor people.”
“It was interesting to see how ingrained religion is in Cambodian culture,” says Maddie Vande Kamp, a senior. “Buddhist and Hindu symbolism has influenced everything from the traditional architecture of pagodas to how peoples’ beliefs are expressed through the spirit houses and shrines in their homes.”
Fikkert and Corbett state that those who go on short-term mission trips often have good intentions but can create harm because they “tend to reflect the perspective of ‘poverty as deficit,’ the idea that poverty is due to the poor lacking something.” And “North Americans often view the ‘something’ as material resources [or] lack of knowledge
WHAT IT MEANS FOR A CHRISTIAN COLLEGE TO DO MISSIONS
The concept of a vision trip is something that Aaron Baart, Dordt’s dean of chapel, has been thinking about since 2010. At that point, AMOR trips typically consisted of groups of 10 – 12 Dordt students who would fly to another country together, live together, stay together, and eat together. They often worked on projects that local — Aaron Baart, dean of chapel people could have done themselves and didn’t get to know the people who lived there. or spirituality,” the authors say.
“We try to be honest and tell students that this is probably more about what we will get than what we will give.”
“It wasn’t really a cross-cultural experience,” says Baart. “It didn’t use the students’ majors or unique gift sets. And, in many ways, they were taking work away from the people who lived in those countries.”
A holistic definition of poverty looks at more than material goods. Quoting Christian development thinker Bryant Myers, Fikkert and Corbett define poverty as “the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.” They see poverty as “rooted in the brokenness of foundational relationships,” including our relationship with God, self, others,
Baart started to ask questions about short-term mission trips.
He and Geleynse read many books on mission work and stewardship initiatives while trying to answer this question, but one that had a significant impact was When Helping Hurts, written by Dordt graduate and economist Brian Fikkert (‘86) and community development expert Steve Corbett.
“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good,” write Fikkert and Corbett. Baart and Geleynse took this to heart as they thought about what it means for Christian college students to do missions. They decided to establish long-term partnerships with organizations that have similar goals and visions. For the past few years, AMOR has worked with organizations like One Body One Hope in Liberia, Sarah’s Covenant Homes in India, and Presbyterian Day School in Belize. “We carefully choose ministry partners based on their stewardship and their ability to raise indigenous leaders,” says Baart. “We want to work with ministries who are running lean, who are being stewardly with the money they’re given.” In some cases, AMOR-goers work with organizations that focus on unreached people groups—that is, locations where there are few Christians. Baart and Geleynse also realize that, as Geleynse says, “spending two weeks with a partner organization is not enough time to experience the heart of the organization’s mission.” That understanding shapes how they think about the purpose of AMOR.
ADRI VAN GRONIGEN ('18)
“One of my first questions was, ‘What does it mean for a Christian institution of higher education to do missions?’” says Baart.
and the rest of creation. Adopting this holistic view of poverty helps Christians realize that, even if they are rich from a material standpoint, they might be impoverished in other areas of their lives. According to Fikkert and Corbett, many poverty-alleviation efforts exacerbate the poverty of being economically rich— god complexes—and the poverty of being economically poor—feelings of inferiority and shame.
saw how close-knit the rural communities can be; senior Miranda Moss and freshman Hannah Dagel said that, on the first night, there were so many visitors at their host family’s house that they didn’t even know who actually lived there.
Working with One Body One Hope, Dordt's AMOR team to Liberia spent some time getting to know children at the local orphanage.
evangelism and training, also thinks short-term mission trips should focus less on productivity and more on relationship building. During One Body One Hope’s first trip to Liberia, volunteers built an entire dormitory for an orphanage in three days. When the work was completed, the team was surprised to find that the Liberians were disappointed. “The Liberians said, ‘You didn’t pray, worship, or get to know us. You built a building,’” says Baart. On the next trip, Baart asked the Liberians to take charge of the team’s itinerary. Volunteers spent two weeks visiting churches, attending funerals, making house visits, praying, and sharing testimonies.
Sophomore Olivia Vander Haag and Seng Kimhuoy, a World Renew bridger, watch as senior Maddie Vande Kamp chops up vegetables for supper at their host family's home in Prey Veng Province.
“We try to be honest and tell students that this is probably more about what we will get than what we will give,” says Baart. “AMOR is an educational experience and a discipleship experience. We want students to cultivate a deeper level of humility in missions and understand that we’re going to learn from people. We’re not bringing Jesus anywhere where he isn’t already; saying that would be absolutely foolish. Instead, we want to learn from the Christian believers who are working in the setting we’re visiting.” And Baart and Geleynse would like students to use their majors and skillsets on AMOR, when possible. “We’re creating opportunities for our students to ask what missions looks like for an education, engineering, or nursing major,” says Baart. “Even if the students decide they don’t want to go into missions, they can still appreciate that there are people who are taking their same set of skills, gifts, and education and applying them internationally.”
RETHINKING THE ROLE OF A SHORT-TERM MISSION TRIP Is there still a place for short-term mission trips? Fikkert believes there is, but not if
we think we’re “going to go alleviate poverty in a week.” Most communities already have local people, organizations, or churches busily working. The role of outsiders should be to encourage, strengthen, and support those who are already there. For some, that might seem like a less glamorous role; but Fikkert sees this role as vital. “It’s really important to go and listen to those who are there over the long haul— to hear their stories, to pray with them, to
“They didn’t want us to do anything for them,” Baart says. “We’re so task-oriented as Westerners that we often feel that it’s not productive unless we’re being efficient and producing something. But that’s not always what the global church wants from us.” Chad Nibbelink (‘07) works for Brothers Redevelopment, a Denver-based nonprofit organization that provides housing and housing-related services for the region’s low-income, elderly, and disabled residents. Short-term mission teams often assist with Brothers Redevelopment projects, and Nibbelink has found that preparation for a shortterm mission trip is almost as important as going on the trip itself.
“If, as a visitor, you think you have the answers, your efforts can be harmful because you’re only seeing a tiny slice of the organization and its work in the community without seeing the context.” — Merissa Harkema ('13)
encourage them, and to come back and support them through ongoing prayer, encouragement, and fundraising,” says Fikkert. Baart, who founded the organization One Body One Hope as a way to empower the people of Liberia through Christ-centered
“It is important to come with authentic expectations that a short-term mission experience is a two-way street and that you both give and receive,” says Nibbelink. “It’s incredibly important to create times of reflection and discussion and to prioritize relationships. Teams should be ready to ask questions of
“If, as a visitor, you think you have the answers, your efforts can be harmful because you’re only seeing a tiny slice of the organization and its work in the community without seeing the context,” says Harkema. “It’s important to trust that the way to be most helpful is to do what those who are there for the long haul are saying would be most helpful.”
GO AND EXPERIENCE
Every AMOR trip is different. What remains the same, no matter where the AMOR trips take Dordt students, is the hope that these trips will shape the lives of the students who go. “We ask our students, ‘How are you going to make this short-term experience create lifelong transformation?’” says Baart. That lifelong transformation might take many shapes, and often students don’t fully comprehend AMOR’s impact on their lives until long after they have returned to American soil. However, from Baart’s perspective, that transformation can’t happen without the right mindset. “Go and experience—learn from someone there,” says Baart. “Cook with them. Teach in the classrooms with them. Walk in someone else’s shoes for a day, see what their life is like, and foster an appreciation for it. Develop a real
While in Cambodia, Dordt students experienced Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world.
relationship, come with a posture of humility, and don’t have set expectations of what will make this good or not.” SARAH MOSS ('10)
ADRI VAN GRONIGEN ('18)
In addition to the Cambodia team, Dordt sent AMOR groups to Liberia and Belize during Christmas break. The Belize team, comprised of four digital media majors and a faculty leader, spent a week filming
To Merissa Harkema (’13), openness and attitude are important. Harkema has spent the past two years working at Sarah’s Covenant Homes, a community of foster-style homes in Hyderabad, India. She finds it most helpful when shortterm mission teams ask questions and are open to assisting in ways that better the organization as a whole.
at Presbyterian Day School in Cristo Rey, Belize; they will turn the footage into a fundraising video for the organization. Another team spent two weeks in Liberia collaborating with One Body One Hope.
themselves and others, particularly about poverty.”
Lee Pitts is pictured with American soldiers on a foot patrol through a village in northeastern Iraq. Next to the framed photo are trinkets and toys he picked up “during that season of life,” he says.
GIVING VOICE TO THE VOICELESS Dordt journalism majors learn to see the world as their workplace. A JOURNALIST IS BORN Lee Pitts sits at his desk, preparing for class. His office walls are lined with newspaper clippings, and the headlines jump off the page: “No Soft-Shell Vehicles,” “No More ‘Hillbilly Armor,” “It’s Real Now, Boys.” On a bookshelf stands
war memorabilia and a framed photo: two heavily-armed soldiers walking through a desert town. Between them is a man with a camera and a stalwart smile. Pitts, that man with the camera, now directs the journalism program at Dordt.
After earning his master’s degree from Northwestern University, he worked for the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee, covering everything from the state lottery system to Hummer conventions. In 2004, Pitts was on a six-month
The soldiers were skeptical at first; they thought the media was out to get them. But Pitts told them he was simply there to tell their stories. “The more I put my life at risk, the more they respected me,” says Pitts. “They saw that my stories were fair and accurate, and they opened up. By the middle of my deployment they were begging me to tell their stories.”
Pitts describes how his stories were a lifeline to absent fathers, brothers, sons, spouses. Families would log on to the website to see what had happened the previous day in Iraq. After being sick for a couple of days, he found his inbox filled
“I was writing about real people swept up in global events, making sure their voices weren’t forgotten in this year away from their families.” — Lee Pitts, journalism professor
For Pitts, the best part of journalism is being in the thick of it. Instead of carrying a rifle, he carried a notepad and pencils. He sat in the back of a Humvee, wearing night-vision goggles, going 50 miles an hour down a desert road. He was there as soldiers handed out water bottles and flip-flops in dusty villages that consisted of little more than huts made of mud. His stories mattered—not just to the soldiers and the public, but to the soldiers’ families. KATE HENRECKSON
weren’t forgotten in this year away from their families,” says Pitts.
“II was writing about real people swept up in global events, making sure their voices
with emails asking when the next story was coming. He kept those back home informed about the dangerous missions of their loved ones. From this experience, Pitts says he began to realize the gravity of his work: He was writing a rough draft of history. “Maybe one day, historians will use it as a source to write about the war in Iraq,” says Pitts. “I was telling future generations what it was like to be a soldier or a citizen at that moment in American history.”
After Iraq, Pitts worked as a reporter in Washington, D.C. In Iraq, he had reported on the bottom rung of the military ladder–soldiers with mud and blood on their uniforms; in Washington, he wrote about politicians and government officials in fancy suits and ties. He covered congressional hearings, press conferences, and State-of-the-Union addresses. Pitts describes much of what goes on in the capital as being orchestrated by politicians and their “gatekeepers.” Much of his job was to try to get around these gatekeepers–to hold the powerful accountable and tell true stories of what was happening behind the scenes.
deployment to eastern Iraq with the 278th Regimental Combat Team. Their missions ranged from peacekeeping, to humanitarian missions, to night combat raids capturing insurgents. Pitts went with them, from platoon to platoon, and recorded their stories.
JOURNALISM AT DORDT Toward the end of his time in Washington, Pitts began to feel pulled back to teaching. He had been a middle school English teacher before he became a journalist. A job offer from Dordt gave him an opportunity to marry his loves of teaching and journalism. In 2016, he launched a new journalism program at Dordt. Pitts had specific goals for Dordt’s program. “When I was hiring young journalism interns in Washington, I found that they knew a lot about the theory of journalism, but not about the world around them,” he explains. “A journalist has to have a working knowledge of the world they are going to cover–a world
Lee Pitts wants journalism majors to excel in multimedia storytelling and to interact with other disciplines.
that is rapidly changing.” So Dordt’s journalism program was designed to have classes about journalism set within classes about the world they plan to cover: politics or art or economics or criminal justice. A bumper sticker for Dordt’s journalism program might read: “Our graduates know how a bill becomes a law.”
who were curious about the world, and I trapped them in a classroom. The community—the world, really—is our classroom.” In Dordt journalism classes, students write stories on a variety of topics. They learn to use technology to keep up with the rapidly-changing media world: podcasts, editing software, video
Pitts also wanted Dordt journalism classes to be practical, adopting the “hospital” model of teaching. Medical students spend a lot of time in clinicals to become good — Lee Pitts, journalism professor doctors. In the same way that patients don’t want a doctor’s first time stories, and more. Students write for operating to be on them, readers don’t local newspapers such as the Sioux Center want a reporter’s first story to be when News and the Northwest Iowa Review, and they are paid to do it. They need to learn they write for and edit The Diamond, the by doing journalism. student newspaper.
“I would be remiss as a professor if I had students who were curious about the world, and I trapped them in a classroom. The community–the world, really–is our classroom.”
“I want them to write and report while facing real deadlines,” says Pitts. “I would be remiss as a professor if I had students
Dordt junior Jenna Stephens wrote a piece on the day-to-day life of Darrell Kooima, a local mall custodian. She
followed him around for a couple of days, observing his work and listening to his stories. Her piece ran in the Sioux Center News. “This is someone you might not ordinarily notice—you’d probably walk by him without talking to him,” says Stephens. But he is an important part of keeping a community service running well. In spending time with him, she gained his trust and formed a meaningful connection. Joshua Meribole, another journalism major, wrote a story on immigration. In preparation, he interviewed a Sioux County attorney and an undocumented immigrant. The language barrier was initially difficult, and he had to rely on the immigrant’s daughter to translate his questions. Writing the piece opened up a variety of ethical questions. “How much protection do I give my source?” he asks. “Do I include names? How much detail do I put in? Will it affect their livelihood?” For Meribole, wrestling through such issues helped him grow as a journalist and as a person. Dordt’s journalism program also provides internship opportunities. For Danny Mooers, a senior at Dordt, this was one of the most exciting parts of his time in the program. He spent a semester at
ADRI VAN GRONINGEN
ADRI VAN GRONINGEN ('18)
King’s College in New York City, writing for Newsweek and International Business Times. Mooers worked 25 hours a week as a technology reporter. In his spare time, he saw Broadway shows and "Saturday Night Live," ate at food trucks, and explored all five boroughs. Last summer, Pitts also brought the World Journalism Institute (WJI) to Dordt. Twenty-six journalism students from 17 states came to campus for two weeks of coaching and mentoring by professional Christian journalists. The students networked with other aspiring journalists; together, they learned and were encouraged about the future of their profession. “WJI was awesome,” says Mooers. “It was two weeks of pure journalism. The entire experience is hands-on, and the teachers are solid. WJI made me more valuable as a journalist because I can shoot video, write features and news stories, and create radio spots. Journalists these days have to be able to do a little of everything, and WJI is a perfect place to learn these skills.”
WHY JOURNALISM? WHY NOW? With the decline of print publications in today’s digital age, many thought that journalism too was a dying industry. But according to Pitts, while traditional newspapers and newscasts may be having a difficult time, the field of journalism is not, in fact, dying out. It is morphing into something exciting and new. “As long as people care about stories, journalism will have a critical role in our world,” says Pitts. “Our new technology is not threatening the profession, but changing it.”
World Journalism Institute participants learned how to write and record their own radio spots.
it as a profession with a discrete set of standards, practices, values, and ethics. “The challenges that journalism faces in the era of fake news makes it a significant time for journalism, but also for America,” says Pitts. “Journalism, as an institution, is tasked with being the conscience of America. If journalists are not trusted to report accurately, that can give free reign to people of power, and it doesn’t give the voiceless a chance to have their stories told. That hurts our democracy.” And that, Pitts believes, is why it is so
the voting populace. To Dr. Leah Zuidema, Dordt’s associate provost, journalism is a perfect fit for Dordt’s mission: equipping students to work for Christ-centered renewal in all aspects of contemporary life. “Journalists have such a powerful influence on culture today,” she says. “We are awash in news coverage, with stories coming at us through our social media and screens as well as via podcasts, radio, and newspapers. For better or for worse, journalists deeply shape the public imagination.”
“As long as people care about stories, journalism will have a critical role in our world. Our new technology is not threatening the profession, but changing it.”
As technology has become more affordable and available, it has also become easier for anyone to write stories using different media— — Lee Pitts, journalism professor sometimes lowering the bar for journalism. There is a danger, argues critical to train journalists at a college Pitts, when anyone who writes online is level—not only about how to use considered a journalist—particularly with technological tools, but also how to the use of social media. Now, more than understand journalism as a mission or ever, he believes, we need journalists calling: telling stories in order to affect who have been trained to value the roles change, increase awareness, and educate and responsibilities of journalism and see
At Dordt, the mission of the journalism program is to give voice to the voiceless and to hold the powerful accountable. Christians can impact the profession in huge ways, argues Pitts, by modeling their reporting and writing after the way
Jesus lived his ministry. Christ used the medium of stories to instruct and inspire people. He listened to the broken and the outcasts, giving them a voice, while calling out the Pharisees and others in power when they displayed hypocrisy. Pitts points to prominent examples of how journalism has exposed abusive power. A Boston Globe reporter first uncovered decades of sexual abuse and helped bring about real change in the Catholic church. In-depth reporting exposing sexual abuse in the workplace helped give rise to the #metoo movement. The perpetrators of such injustices are being held accountable, due in large part to the journalists who tracked those stories down. And the impact that journalists are having on the political life of our nation today is undeniable. “You can effect real change as a journalist,” Pitts says. “You can change society and culture for the better. Hopefully there are fewer priests abusing children, fewer professional leaders abusing their employees, and more politicians being held accountable because of the work of journalists.” Mark Vogelzang (’79) is a Dordt English graduate who is now CEO of Maine Public Radio and Television.
BACKPACK JOURNALISM Pitts describes how, thanks to new technology, the concept of “backpack journalism”–the idea that you can put all of the tools a journalist needs in a backpack–has emerged. With simply a laptop, a digital audio recorder, and a handheld HD camcorder, a journalist can tell stories in all mediums. The 24-hour news cycle was initially created by the cable networks, but the Internet has thrown it into hyper-drive. Now, print, television, and online journalists can update stories online immediately; they can tweet out updates or share video footage as a crisis unfolds. Interactive websites have brought storytelling to a new level. Amazing photos, interactive graphics, and panoramic sweeping videos can all be embedded in an article: digital tools enable vivid and effective storytelling.
“We need journalists who care about the world and are compassionate,” says Vogelzang. “Those are Christ-like traits. KATE HENRECKSON
“Journalism brings the free flow of ideas and debate,” he says. “It helps people make decisions. By speaking the truth, we hold public officials accountable. As citizens in a democracy, we should all want that. Our mission is to connect the dots in an incredibly complex and fastmoving world.” For Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (’01), a Dordt communication graduate and writer for Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition, the key to good journalism is humility. “You need to start with the mindset that everyone is created in the image of God,” she says. “Part of that is holding your sources in high esteem—doing the important work of listening to them, digging into things you may not understand, and keeping as broad a mind as you possibly can. Most people are trying to do good, even if in a broken way.”
Journalism helps us understand our neighbors and fellow citizens better: our shared plight, our shared brokenness. Doing journalism well—providing insight into someone’s stories, joys, goals—all of that enhances our shared humanity.”
By viewing sources as humans made in the image of God, Christian journalists can witness to God’s goodness and love. Not only does this create better stories, it leaves a lasting impact on others. People realize they are being seen as human beings first, and sources second.
Lee Pitts’ journey has been an amazing one. From giving voice to the voiceless soldiers of a never-ending war, to training the next generation to seek out those whose voices aren’t being heard, he is committed to promoting true and good storytelling. “Pitts understands journalism, and what a good story is,” says Mooers. “And he wants the best for his students. As soon as he finds someone with an inkling of passion for journalism, he latches onto them and brings them into his world. He’s willing to bend over backwards for those who love journalism and want to pursue it.” “A good reporter looks for what makes an ordinary person extraordinary,” says Pitts, “and what makes an extraordinary person ordinary. If you love telling stories, and believe in the necessity of open information in a free society, you should go into journalism. It’s a high calling, and brings a lot of joy.”
Pitts has a newspaper vending machine in his office; he uses it to store Diamond copies that date back to when he first arrived at Dordt.
Organizational Communication: Dr. Charles Veenstra. I don’t remember what I was wearing. I don’t remember the day or time. I don’t even recall if it was in the spring or fall. I do remember where I sat—south side of the room, second row in, about half way back. And I can still see Dr. Veenstra, a fleeting look at the name on the graded test in front of him, a glance around the room, his eyes meeting mine. He walked slowly over and placed the test, clearly marked with a C, on my desk. With a twinkle in his eye, a smile in his voice, and more faith and confidence in me than I had ever had in myself, he said, “You can do better. Come see me.” That moment changed my life. I spent the rest
of my time at Dordt cramming in every communication class my schedule would allow. And after a decade at home raising a family, that moment led me to pursue a graduate degree in communication. Today, I am a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, worship planner, teacher, and co-worker because of it.
assure you that professional success and philanthropic responsibility rarely make the list. The most frequent responses I receive are the stories of everyday instances and conversations between friends, roommates, teachers, and students. Ordinary moments with extraordinary outcomes.
A Dordt education is many things, not the least of which is academic excellence. I believe anyone who has a degree from Dordt has the theoretical and practical foundation to succeed. I also believe that the value of a Dordt education can be found in those ordinary moments where God humbles, challenges, and encourages us.
I still seek out Dr. Veenstra and relish his wit, his listening ear, and his poignant questions. He still challenges me. He still encourages me. He still believes in me. And although to this day he doesn’t remember the moment he changed my life, I will never forget it.
semiconductor materials and can help increase efficiency in solar panels, lasers, television screens, and other renewable energy devices.
Please send news of your alumni gatherings, professional accomplishments, civic participation, and volunteer activities. We'd love to include them on our pages. Brandalynn Barritt (’15) graduated from Dordt’s psychology program and recently took a job as a therapist at Jackson Recovery Center. She is also able to give back to her community as a volunteer EMT. “It’s really exciting to know it’s possible to get a job in your field after you leave Dordt,” says Barritt. Herman Hofman (’13) won first prize in the Religious Liberty Student Writing Competition. Hofman is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law. He also clerked for Bob Jonker, a federal judge in Michigan. Hofman is currently an attorney with Varnum Law in Grand Rapids. Jon Vogel (’12) completed his Ph.D. in materials chemistry at the University of South Dakota. His dissertation was titled “Nonadiabatic Dynamics in Quantum Confined Semiconductors.” His research focused on how electrical charge carriers migrate through quantum confined
Here at Dordt, one of the greatest privileges I have is the opportunity to ask donors why they give. Let me
Emily Vande Griend (’10) received her SHRM-CP certification in human resources. Vande Griend currently works as a human resources assistant for the City of Wyoming, Michigan. Nine-year-old Tyse Wagenaar, son of Aaron Wagenaar (’05) of Lynden, Washington, is already on track to become a future Defender. When his dad told him he had two options for college, one of which was Dordt, Tyse responded, “Why would you need an option other than Dordt?” Chad Nibbelink (’07) is the volunteer manager at Brothers Redevelopment, an organization that organizes over 2,000 volunteers to paint and repair homes for low-income and elderly households. The Denver Channel, a news station in Colorado,
ORDINARY MOMENTS WITH EXTRAORDINARY OUTCOMES
KAREN VAN SCHOUWEN (’01)
recently released a story in recognition of the impact Brothers Redevelopment has had on their surrounding community. Karen Christians (’92) was one of 30 Bible teachers from around the world selected to participate in an all-expensepaid professional opportunity at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. Christians currently teaches Bible and serves as spiritual life coordinator at Western Christian High School in Hull, Iowa. Debra Alons (’83) has decided to retire from the Houston Grand Opera Chorus where she has served as a chorus member for the past 30 years. She moved to Houston, Texas, in 1986 to pursue her goal of singing opera. Her last show with the company will be on May 11. Joy Wierenga (’72) was one of 14 Albertans to win the Senate of Canada’s 150th Commemorative Medal. This award recognizes the recipient’s drive to contribute to his or her community. Wierenga received the award for her work in compiling and writing the history for her community of Neerlandia, Alberta.
ANYWHERE BUT THERE Jim Schaap explains how, for Mitch Menning ('96), all roads lead back to Dordt. “No. Not interested. I’m going to Calvin.” Mitch Menning grew up in Edgerton, Minnesota and went to Southwest Christian High School, where, he says, 18 of the 42 graduating seniors— his classmates—drove south down Highway 75 to Sioux Center and Dordt College. He wanted no part of the herd—wanted almost anything else. That’s why he went to Michigan, to Calvin College. Where he lasted for one semester.
He was, back then, as he remains today, determinedly and joyfully devout. When he told Ron Rynders (’67), his Dordt adviser, that someday he wanted to teach Bible, Rynders told him he’d need some other major because Dordt offered no “Bible teacher” major. Every class was biblically based, Rynders said, a line Menning claims to have heard more often during the next four years. Still, it seemed wrong that a Bible teacher would
It wasn’t soybeans that brought him back, or sweet farmland aromas; it was Michael, his brother, a kid with special needs. He just missed his brother. If you understand that about Mitch Menning, you’re on the road to understanding him.
Oh, the places you'll go: Menning has crisscrossed the country since graduating from Dordt. Everywhere he and his family have gone, they've encountered Dordt connections.
have no training in Bible teaching, so he walked into the theology department and asked them the same question. The theology department back then was a formidable bunch—Profs. Mike Williams, Mike Goheen, John Vander Stelt, and Wayne Kobes (’69). The four of them pressed him to get a theology major, which he did—and for which he’s greatly thankful, even though he hasn’t “taught Bible” for years.
close look at the new freshmen “women.” He and Kara met there, but they didn’t date until after a PLIA trip to Jackson, Mississippi, where Mitch led devotions and Kara, he claims, was the only one who agreed with what he was saying. After PLIA, things got serious; both Kara and Mitch committed to Christian
Make no mistake: Even though he once wanted no part of it, his Dordt education has played a starring role in his life.
Make no mistake: Even though he once wanted no part of it, his Dordt education has played a starring role in his life. He met his wife, Kara (Van Heyst, ’97) at the fall Okoboji retreat, which he and his really tight roomies—Ted Kamp (’95), Kendal Walhof (’95), Garry Eriks (’95), Kevin Vos (’96), and Kirk Vander Pol (’95)—made sure to attend because, he says, they wanted to not only be living group leaders but also to get a good
community development—and each other. There’s more. His last year at Dordt, Mitch pulled a student teaching assignment on the west side of Chicago to be closer to Kara, who’d transferred to Trinity to get a nursing degree (before Dordt had
a program). When they graduated, a good job offer meant they could stay in Chicago. But they didn’t. Mitch had interned earlier for a couple of Dordt grads, Stan (’81) and Alice (Veluw, ’80) Weber, in an innercity ministry in Nashville, Tennessee. When the opportunity arose to move to Nashville, the Mennings took it. Mitch started his teaching career at Christ Presbyterian Academy, where he coached soccer (“they took me along to drive the bus”) and taught, mostly math. Math, you say? He claims he tells this story monthly at least. A couple of years before, when he was a student of Dr. Calvin Jongsma in a math education class, he’d handed in an assignment, a lesson plan. Jongsma thought it was great, then handed it back. “Now do the same lesson plan as if you were teaching in a public school but still from a Christian perspective,” said Jongsma. That moment, that comment, he claims, taught him something fundamental
about Christian education. In 2000, Kara finished a master’s in nursing at Vanderbilt University, and Mitch started to wonder about raising a family on the salary he was taking home as a high school teacher. He loved teaching, loved math, but when the opportunity came to move back to Kara’s hometown of Salt Lake City, they took it. Mitch thought he’d leave the classroom and take up accounting. He began working for Byron DeStigter (’87), a CPA married to Vonda (Broek, ’88) DeStigter, whose coaching class Mitch had taken while he was at Dordt. This may be starting to feel like Dordt bingo, but there’s only one more. Or two. After a few years in Utah, Mitch and Kara had four kids—three biological and one adopted—and were vitally interested in one more adoption. As a couple with significant social concerns, they were very aware of the 160 million orphans in the world. One afternoon, Kara found the picture of a little girl on the website of organization in Ohio. “I really don’t know where she is,” Kara told Mitch when she called to tell him that this particular face really caught her eye. “I think she’s in Barbados—I’m
The Menning family. Back row, from left to right: Joey, 8th grade; Isaiah, 10th grade. Front row, from left to right: Cyndi, 3rd grade; Kara; Luther, 1st grade; Asher, 1st grade; Mitch; Ellie, 5th grade.
putting some things together.” It was the Fourth of July 2011. The organization told them that the child they’d spotted was Haitian, and the care center she where she lived, should they want to proceed, was “Children of the Promise.”
RESPONDING TO MORMON-NESS Not long ago, a new Hampton Inn went up right next to the playground of Intermountain Christian School. Seems awkward to have a hotel that close, but odd things happen to an evangelical institution in a state mostly run by an oligarchy from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. The powers-that-be are not particularly sympathetic to evangelical enterprises like Intermountain Christian School. Salt Lake City has no real mega-churches, and very few Christian schools for a city of 1.3 million people. To some folks in town, that’s just fine. The region’s Mormon-ness creates unique problems. Polygamy, long ago made illegal in the state and a sin in the LDS church, is still quietly practiced throughout the region, where fiercely conservative Fundamentalist Mormons have never complied with the church’s 1890 “Manifesto” terminating the practice. Rural polygamists, especially those belonging to the Fundamentalist LDS church, often create orphans and/or break up families. When families break or kids leave, the children find life difficult in a world no more understandable to them than it would be to any strangers in a strange land. What’s more, many have never learned basic skills: Some sixteen-year-olds, for instance, will read at no more than a kindergarten or prekindergarten level. Intermountain Christian School has created a unique program for teaching such children who have left broken polygamist families, a program that provides one-on-one instruction as well as the level of mainlining necessary to help a child find his or her way in a truly foreign world.
More Internet surfing followed. Once again, Kara called Mitch. “You’re not going to believe this,” she told him. “‘Children of a Promise’ is an orphanage begun by a couple named Bonnema from Prinsburg, Minnesota.” At that moment, the Mennings found themselves in a bingo blizzard. After all, there are Bonnemas in the Menning family— Bonnemas from Prinsburg, Minnesota. The Mennings keep in touch with their old roomies, including Mitch’s longtime buddy Kirk Vander Pol (they were baptized together and made profession of faith together—same church, same Sunday!). So Mitch texted Kirk, who lived in Prinsburg, to see if he knew anything about “Children of a Promise.” “Well, yeah,” Kirk said, dumbfounded. Not only that, but he and his wife Christina (Breems, ’95) had just returned from a trip to Haiti and were thinking of moving back there. “Why are you asking?” “Kara was looking online and there’s this little girl named Natalie,” Mitch told his old friend. “We’re feeling like we’re being called to adopt her.” “Get Kara on the phone,” Kirk said. “Why? You know something?” “Yeah, we know her,” Kirk told them.
Then, profound silence. “That’s the little girl we are thinking of adopting,” Kirk said. Kara said maybe they should arm wrestle.
Mitch and Kara gave it some thought— some, and then said yes. For the record, Kirk and Christina Vander Pol did move for a time to Haiti. While all the paperwork for the Menning adoptions was accomplished, the Vander Pols kept an eye on a brother and sister, Cyndi-Love and Lou, who, in 2013, became residents of Salt Lake City, name of Menning.
The years Mitch spent in finance and accounting were good years; but up there in his office pod, he couldn’t stop looking across the street toward a building that enrolled all of his beloved kids. He couldn’t stop sneaking peeks, couldn’t stop thinking about that school, a Christian school, about its focus, its spirit, its energy. He says he never held any designs to return to the classroom and certainly didn’t seek a job across the street from
“Hey, listen,” one of them said. “We’ve got an idea here. You ever hear of a place called Dordt College?”
Today, Mitch likes to describe these two as part of Intermountain Christian School’s classes of 2027 and 2029, where
his accounting office. Quite simply, he loved his work tending books. But it happened. He moved across the street, eventually, and became part of the staff of Intermountain Christian School (ICS).
There’s still one more Dordt story that must be told. As Head of School, Mitch Menning was naturally concerned about what was happening in the classrooms. To get some perspective on the difference between what he was seeing and what he was dreaming for ICS, he attended a gathering of Christian school administrators where he met two consultants from North Carolina, who offered to come to Salt Lake City and give some advice from their storehouse of experience.
“Oh, there are more kids,” Kirk said. “Maybe we both should adopt from there?” The lifelong friends decided to proceed with the adoption process, and "Children of a Promise" eventually asked the Mennings to adopt two children.
he is now Head of School.
The consultants came twice. They called Mitch a week after the visit. “Hey, listen,” one of them said. “We’ve got an idea here. You ever hear of a place called Dordt College?” Mitch claims his diploma was standing up so high on the book case they hadn’t seen it. Yes, of course, he’d heard of Dordt College, he told them. And then, “I’m a grad.” These consultants, a couple of Southern Baptists, told Mitch that he should really touch base with a guy named Tim Van Soelen (’90), who teaches there, because Van Soelen helped start an organization called the Center for the Advancement of Christian Education (CACE). “That’s who you need to call,” those consultants said. “You need to get them there.” So, Mitch Menning called Tim Van Soelen at a place called Dordt College, and CACE adopted ICS as its first partner school. What did he learn? A lot, he says. It was a great experience. The ICS mission statement is scribbled at the top of the white board in the office of the Head of School. That statement is a rephrasing of what he’d learned long ago from a host of profs at the college he once wanted no part of. “ICS is a Christ-centered learning community that equips and inspires students to thrive in God’s world.” It’s heady stuff and a real challenge to live through, he says; but it’s not at all unfamiliar territory.
Founded in 1982, Intermountain Christian School offers a fully accredited pre-kindergarten through high school program. Several ICS employees attended Dordt, including Menning.
JAMES C. SCHAAP
In her work as a journalist, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (’01) says she keeps in mind that everyone is created in God’s image. “Part of that is holding your sources in high esteem—doing the important work of listening to them, digging into things you may not understand, and keeping as broad a mind as you possibly can,” she says.
STAYING UPBEAT ON THE BEAT
Journalist Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (’01) describes how she went from editing the Diamond to writing for Christianity Today and The Gospel Coalition. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (’01) grew up in Kanawha, Iowa—a tiny pocket of people in northern Iowa. Her parents and uncles all went to Dordt, so she decided to as well. “It was a family thing,” says Zylstra. “And I loved it.” Zylstra majored in English and communication. Back then, students
interested in journalism majored in either English or communication and chose a journalism emphasis. When Zylstra was a student in 2001, only three people picked that option, but her experience was a good one. The small group of students worked closely with and were mentored by former Communication Professor Dr. Tim Vos, who also worked as news director at the college radio station. Zylstra took classes in broadcasting,
writing, and design. But Zylstra’s most formative journalism experience at Dordt was working on the Diamond, Dordt’s student newspaper. For a couple of years, Zylstra served as editor of the newspaper; she can recall the revolutionary moment when she suggested that writers email their stories rather than turn them in to her on floppy disks.
“Going to Northwestern was an automatic credit for me: It was super invigorating and challenging and allconsuming,” says Zylstra. Northwestern was a top-ranked journalism school in the country and, in the journalism industry, a Northwestern degree meant that you could write. The graduate program offered a practical program where students learn how to do journalism, rather than focus on its history or theories. In Zylstra’s first quarter, she covered the police department in Evanston; she visited the station almost every day, riding along with the officers or asking them about programs they were working on. Each subsequent quarter, students were given a different “beat”–a specific topic to cover. For Zylstra, this included trips to the courthouse, trying to track down interesting stories. “You’re on your own, sniffing around, thinking, ‘Please let this be a murder trial!’” Zylstra recalls with a laugh. Her favorite quarter was spent in Washington, D.C., armed with a press pass, covering the news for a daily newspaper in St. Joseph, Missouri. Several times a week, she would receive a copy of the paper with her story on the front page. It was while working as a graduate assistant for a class on religion reporting that she connected with Christianity Today. After field trips to Sikh temples, Muslim mosques, and Jewish temples, the class headed to Wheaton College to learn about “the strange species of the evangelical.” She met a journalist from Christianity Today, who asked her to write for him and began her 13-year career with the evangelical magazine. Today, she writes about news and issues that affect Christians all around the world, issues such as persecution in the Middle East, how Compassion International
that they believe to be true. “All of this contributes to the brokenness,” Zylstra says. “As a Christian, I want to focus on redeeming that communication through God’s power in me, since I am as broken as the next person. I try to shine a light of truth on things as best I can.” Because she’s aware of her own weaknesses both as a reporter and writer, Zylstra prays over each story before she writes it.
Zylstra and other Christianity Today reporters participated in the Religion Newswriters Association conference in 2016.
was forced to pull out of India, and the closing of 240 Family Christian Stores. Last year, Zylstra also began writing for The Gospel Coalition, a website that aims to “serve the local church by providing gospel-centered and Christ-focused content.” She writes in-depth features for The Gospel Coalition and covers topics such as “What does Reformed Christianity look like in China?” and “What does Seattle look like after Mars Hill?”
After graduating, Zylstra moved to Chicago with her husband, Adam Zylstra (’01). She enrolled in Northwestern University’s master’s program in journalism. The training she received and the contacts she made there were invaluable for launching her career.
“I can’t tell you how much it helps me to tell God, ‘These are your stories. Please help me to see and tell them clearly, the way you want them to be told,’” she says. Another part of broken communication is bias; everyone comes to a story—either to tell or hear it—with his or her own background and experience. To be a good journalist, according to Zylstra, requires listening carefully to all points of view and pushing back gently when necessary. Today, Zylstra divides her time between The Gospel Coalition and Christianity Today. But in all her work as a journalist, she continually finds herself coming back to the worldview that shaped her in her
“I can’t tell you how much it helps me to tell God, ‘These are your stories. Please help me to see and tell them clearly, the way you want them to be told.” — Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra ('01), journalist
“These stories are fascinating,” Zylstra says. “We look for where the Holy Spirit is doing something amazing, and cover those stories. Sometimes there are hard or sad or difficult things within those stories, but in the end, it is always good news.” What does it look like to do good journalism as a Christian? For Zylstra, it requires remembering the way God created communication: perfectly. The reality, she says, is that we live in a fallen world where communication is broken. This shows up in egregious ways, such as deceit and manipulation, but it can also happen in subtler ways—people simply not knowing the whole story, or inadvertently passing on misinformation
undergraduate years. “Dordt gave me a solid philosophical understanding of the Reformed framework, shaping how I see and understand everything,” she says. “Living on campus with friends who were learning the same theology was more influential than I could ever have predicted. My college roommates are still some of my very best friends, and we still help each other wrestle with life’s big questions–faith, family, church, career–using the thoughtful Reformed worldview I learned at Dordt.” KATE HENRECKSON
“I didn’t meet the age requirement to adopt Divya,” says Merissa Harkema. “When I received notice that an exception has been granted to allow me to move forward with the adoption, I was incredibly excited and also reassured. It was as if God said, ‘I will fight for you. I’ve got this.’”
AN AGENT OF RESTORATION IN A BROKEN WORLD
Merissa Harkema (’13) is a planner. Even before she attended Dordt and majored in psychology and exercise science, she knew that she wanted to work in occupational therapy. She ended up at Washington University in St. Louis for graduate school; from there, she set her sights on using her skills to help others.
Harkema first heard about Sarah’s Covenant Homes (SCH) during her final internship in occupational therapy school.
“I knew I wanted to work with vulnerable populations and do something healthrelated that was also hands-on,” says Harkema.
“I was planning to go back to get my doctorate, but I met another occupational therapy student who had been on a short-term mission trip to SCH,” says Harkema. “She mentioned SCH in passing, and I was really interested and asked to see photos and hear more.” In the end, Harkema and her friend decided that, after graduation, they would go work at SCH together.
She didn’t realize that, only two years after graduate school, she would end up working as a foster parent at Sarah’s Covenant Homes in Hyderabad, India, and adopting a four-year-old girl named Divya Jane.
“I had never been to India or even heard of SCH before talking to my friend, but it felt as if everything aligned,” she says. “I find big decisions difficult to make sometimes, but God made it really clear that working at SCH was the next step I was supposed to take.” SCH provides alternative housing for children with disabilities who have been abandoned or relinquished by their birth families in India. “Across India, a high number of kids with disabilities are relinquished to institutions by their birth families
partially because of the cultural attitudes, which are very negative toward people with disabilities,” says Harkema.
“My heart is drawn to kids with disabilities and adoption, and I’m trying to open people’s eyes to how incredible these kids are and how great the need for adoption is,” says Harkema. “I am grateful for my current role as foster mom, but it is blatantly obvious that what these kids need is a permanent family. While I can’t be the permanent family each of the kids needs and longs for, I am so grateful to God that my time in India has resulted in one less child without a family.”
“That’s my role—I’m a foster mother in one of the homes,” says Harkema. She co-fosters 12 children with Nikki, who has worked at SCH for five years and specializes in working with blind children. As a skilled occupational therapist, Harkema provides therapy to her foster children. She also serves as their teacher. “We set goals for all the kids in our home,” says Harkema. “For our kids who attend a community school part-time, I work on developmentally appropriate academics such as literacy or math skills, often through play. For our kids who are non-verbal and have no opportunity to attend a community school, I focus primarily on alternative communication such as an eye-gaze controlled computer to give them a voice and an ability to express their thoughts.” In total, SCH has seven family-style homes where staff care for 150 children and young adults. SCH’s goal is not to replace loving biological or adoptive families but to be the closest alternative while children wait to be adopted or reunited with their biological families. “SCH is a forerunner in progressive child welfare in India, and it’s really awesome
Why did Harkema decide to adopt? She says that, among many other reasons, she wanted to “put my money where my mouth is.”
As foster mother, Harkema works with her children on fine and gross motor skills as well as self-care skills.
to be part of a cultural shift toward acceptance of people with disabilities,” says Harkema. “It is such a gift to be able to show these kids God’s love each day.” One way Harkema has chosen to share God’s love is by adopting her daughter Divya. “I always knew that, if I were to adopt, it was going to be a child that was getting overlooked by other prospective adoptive families,” says Harkema. “The majority of kids adopted from India are under three years of age. Most have minor disabilities. Divya is four years old, has cerebral palsy, and can’t walk. She’d never had a family
In government orphanages, children with disabilities can be extremely neglected. At SCH, however, children get to live in foster homes where ayahs—local women who serve as nannies—help with basic care. The homes typically have foster parents, too.
inquire about her.”
In January, Harkema got word that she could move forward with adopting Divya. “I look at Divya and think, ‘How did I get you as a daughter? You’re so wonderful,’” she says. Harkema sees her experience at Dordt as directly influencing her decision to move to India, work at SCH, and adopt Divya. “Dordt was instrumental in shaping my worldview,” says Harkema. “When I made my decision to move to India, I had several people tell me that it was a foolish choice and that I was sacrificing my future and financial stability, because it’s a volunteer position. But, through what I learned at Dordt, I know that Christians should be agents of restoration in a broken world. I see myself as having a role in bringing some restoration to this brokenness.” SARAH MOSS (’10)
EXPLORE FARTHER WITH DORDT DISCOVERY DAYS JUNE 25-29, 2018 Registration opens online April 2, 8 a.m. CST
Details and registration can be found online www.dordt.edu/ddd
NON PROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID OMAHA NE PERMIT NO 776
498 4th Avenue NE Sioux Center, Iowa 51250
It makes the good better. It makes the strong resilient. And it turns the struggle into success. By funding the Academic Enrichment Centerâ€”equipping students with the skills to succeed academically and providing online course accessâ€”the Spring Drive serves the needs of nearly every Dordt student on their academic journey. Your support is powerful. Make a gift to the Spring Drive today.
Give at dordt.edu/gift.
Regular publication for alumni and friends of Dordt College