Calvin’s historical, present, and unfolding story takes place in what university pastor Mary Hulst names “the magnetic middle,” where what we share, confessional faith in Jesus Christ, guides how we relate to one another as a global, diverse campus community; shapes how we pursue knowledge; and guides what we do with that knowledge in the world. Over the next pages, we hope to celebrate this shared story. You’ll hear from Calvin alumni who are also current faculty, staff, and students. They recall their Calvin past, appreciate its present, and reflect on the ways their faith informs the challenging task of learning and growing in community.
Mary Hulst ’91 ~ University Pastor
THEN AND NOW
The most common surname when I was at Calvin was DeVries. The most common surname at Calvin now is Kim. That’s a short way to understand what’s happening at Calvin: we’re a global university now.
Calvin is the magnetic middle that draws people in who say “I don’t know. I don’t easily fit into a category.” We say, “Yeah, most people don’t. Come on down. Get a sweatshirt. That’s who we are.” We don’t fear questions, doubts, or disagreements because equipping students to engage these things—rather than to avoid them—is what we have always done.
ENGAGING THE WORLD THROUGH A LENS OF FAITH
Emerging adulthood is a season of life when you’re asking the big questions, and you need space to run. You need a playground, companions, and conversation partners.We have to give students space to grow and think. How does my discipleship actually influence my life? What does that look like? How may my faith look different than my parents’ faith?
We move toward these conversations with a deep belief in who God created us to be. We’re aware of the fall. We move toward redemption.
The Calvin enterprise is to help our students engage with the world as it is, and to prepare them for the world that’s ahead of them.
Calvin resists being pulled in temporary, fleeting directions around contemporary issues because that’s not going to help our students when they’re out in the world 20 years from now and they’re dealing with a new set of issues. We are part of a larger story than just the American story, than just the twenty-first century story—we are part of God’s story.
We can take that enterprise into every classroom because the core beliefs and the core principles of engagement and renewal as Christ-followers apply to every discipline. Whether you’re doing an engineering project or shooting a film, those principles are consistent, and that’s what we want to show our students.
Nain Miranda ’23 ~ STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT, MAJORING IN ACCOUNTING WITH A MINOR IN DATA ANALYTICS
THEN AND NOW
I’m originally from Nicaragua, and I had only lived in the United States for one year before coming to Calvin. The culture was still new, but I immediately felt received and included. Now, as student body president, I love connecting with people and hearing how they’re doing.
I have a personal mission statement. By the end of my life, I want to be such a good father, that it’s not I who will be remembered, but my children. I have a similar view of leadership. I don’t care if people remember me or not, but I think there’s so much value in mentorship and in being light and hope for others. It’s fulfilling when I see the people serving alongside me thrive.
SEEKING TRUTH IN COMMUNITY
Every now and then there is tension on campus, like any other place in the world. I would say tension and conflict are healthy to have, because then it means at least someone is being truthful. And I think a positive thing about Calvin is that people are seeking truth. It’s not always easy to think critically of everything around you but still extract truth, regardless of viewpoint. But the average Calvin student is intentional, thoughtful, and overall, very kind.
A unique thing about Calvin is that students can have conversations with their professors about some of these things. Student Senate has a program where students can come and have lunch, on us, with their professors. We encourage that, because we think that’s one of the things that makes Calvin special: the fact that you can meet with professors, talk about life, and walk through life with them. I’ve learned from some great mentors here who have changed my life.
MICHELLE LOYD-PAIGE ’81 ~ EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE TO THE PRESIDENT FOR DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
THEN AND NOW
I joined the Calvin community in the fall of 1977 as a first-year, first-generation, local student. The most noticeable difference between student life then and now is that back then less than 2% of the population would have identified as non-U.S. born or non-white, compared to around 30% of the student body today. As a student, I never could have imagined working at Calvin as a faculty member and later an administrator. There were no Black or other People of Color in leadership roles back then.
But, by the grace of God, I became a faculty member in the department of sociology and social work in January 1985. While I am still a tenured member of the department, my work shifted in 2006 from primarily teaching to primarily administrative work. Currently, I am serving in my last year as the Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion.
GROWING EQUITY, BELONGING, AND INCLUSION
What has and continues to excite me is Calvin’s commitment to remain true to its Christian Reformed roots while seeking to become a welcoming and inclusive community. Calvin is seeking to both achieve and move beyond compositional diversity. Our goal is equity, inclusion, and belonging. And, we are not afraid to speak about racism; in fact, we have an anti-racism position.
We have made good progress, but there is more work to be done. For example, our student diversity has grown faster than the diversity of our faculty, staff, and board. We can do better. With God’s help, I believe we will.
MICHAEL WILDSCHUT ’00 ~ DIRECTOR OF THE JANUARY SERIES
THEN AND NOW
I’m not the same person I was when I graduated, thankfully. If I look back on where I’ve seen significant growth, it’s when I’ve been challenged to learn something new, tasked with a project outside of my comfort zone, or discovered new information that caused me to enrich my perspective.
UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WORLD
My role is uniquely suited to helping our community get a deeper understanding of a particular piece of God’s world. By providing a forum to learn about something new, we leave with a fuller set of lenses, an enriched perspective.
Disability and accessibility are areas of interest for me, but talking about them can cause uneasiness—especially when hearing of the ways people have been treated in the past, or when we are unsure about the particular language we should use. I want to uplift those in the disability community and provide a space for them to share their stories and help us all live in a richer community together. Doing that requires a lot of listening.
I love hearing when audience members were pleasantly surprised by a speaker’s talk. Maybe they didn’t think it would be interesting or worthwhile, but they stayed and came away with a new perspective that surprised them. I’m a richer person when I know that others are learning through the January Series, and I’m so grateful to be a part of that.
JANE KNOL ZWART ’00 ~ CO-DIRECTOR OF THE CALVIN CENTER FOR FAITH & WRITING AND ENGLISH PROFESSOR
THEN AND NOW
As a first-year student at Calvin, I took an introduction to philosophy class. We spent much of the semester crafting definitions for concepts that I thought (wrongly) I already had in hand: justice, love, freedom. I remember Professor Lee Hardy urging us to wrestle with the distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom to.”
To learn in a community is to give one another the freedom to speak our minds and to change our minds; it is the freedom to ask questions bigger than our ability to lay them to rest; it is the freedom to test our convictions, to wrestle our way toward a truth that none of us owns.
NAMING QUESTIONS, PRACTICING GRACE
American writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry enjoins us to “practice resurrection,” and Calvin, at its best, is a place that encourages us to do that. Practicing resurrection, though, before Christ returns, means staking our lives on a kingdom we cannot see; it means all our works are the imperfect labor of an imperfect love. It also means being vulnerable enough to tender grace to others (which is hard) and to receive grace ourselves (which can be even harder).
I have found, in Calvin, a place where I can confess my faith and confess my fallenness. I have found a community where people name convictions about who God is and what that means about who we are, where people confess Jesus as Lord and Savior: that is daring.
But it is also daring—and perhaps especially in an academic setting, which values being right, and a Christian setting, which values righteousness—to name our questions, the things we are still wrestling to understand. And it is daring to name what we have gotten wrong: the places where another person’s solution has more integrity or more elegance—or the places where we did not take enough care.
I want to keep adjusting my heart, training it on Jesus, and I also want to keep changing my mind as I learn more, training myself in new ways of being faithful. I have a great deal of hope that Calvin is a place where my students, colleagues, and I can continue to do both things. But “practic[ing] resurrection” is a messy business, and it will take no small courage for us all to keep Christ, our only righteousness, at the center, rather than idolizing our own rightness.
ELEANOR LEE ’23 ~ CALVIN CENTER FOR FAITH & WRITING SENIOR STUDENT FELLOW, MAJORING IN COMPUTER SCIENCE AND WRITING
THEN AND NOW
I came to Calvin as a first-year student in 2019. Since then, Calvin’s community has challenged me to prioritize listening—to God and to people around me—and to reflect on what I hear.
In high school, I was a relentless overachiever, mostly because “success” gave me a sense of purpose. But Calvin’s routines encouraged me to “be still”—from solo time on wilderness orientation, to meditative Thursday Chapels, to Pastor Mary’s reminders that God’s success looks very different from ours. I found that, surprisingly, life felt more successful when I sat still.
Stillness—surrendering my plans of busyness and productivity—helped me connect more deeply with God and with others.
NURTURING STILLNESS AND PEACE IN A CHAOTIC WORLD
American culture encourages us to avoid being still. Always, we’re working, scrolling, typing, and judging. But I found that being still and knowing God; knowing this beautiful, chaotic world; knowing God’s love reflected in professors and friends, left me with no quick judgments about “right” theology, policies, or choices. Instead, it left me with empathy for my thoughtful, faithful fellow Knights: people who seek their Creator wholeheartedly, even when they arrive at different conclusions.
This honest, diverse spiritual fruit is one of the things I love most about Calvin. At Calvin, the norm isn’t to lock your faith away out of fear, shame, or apathy. Rather, it’s to share your faith. To examine it (and, sometimes, to change it). To carry it into the most pressing issues of our day.
I thank God for the friendships, questions, and holy stillness I’ve been led to at Calvin. And I encourage all my fellow Calvin students— past, present, and future—to be still and know. Know just how good God is, and just how tightly grace holds us all together.