Calvin University (Michigan)
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Calvin University is a private Christian liberal arts university in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1876, Calvin University is an educational institution of the Christian Reformed Church and stands in the Reformed tradition of Protestantism. Known as Calvin College for most of its history, the school is named after John Calvin, the 16th-century Protestant Reformer.
|Motto||"My heart I offer to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely"|
|Type||Private liberal arts college|
|Christian Reformed Church|
|Endowment||$123.6 million (2014)|
|President||Michael K. Le Roy|
|Campus||Suburban (390 acres)|
|Colors||Maroon and Gold|
|Athletics||NCAA Division III – MIAA|
The Christian Reformed Church in North America founded the school on August 4, 1876, as part of Calvin College and Theological Seminary (with the seminary becoming Calvin Theological Seminary) to train church ministers. The college and seminary began with seven students, in a rented upper room on Spring Street, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The initial six-year curriculum included four years of literary studies and two years of theology. In 1892, the campus moved to the intersection of Madison Avenue and Franklin Street (Fifth Avenue) in Grand Rapids. In September 1894, the school expanded the curriculum for those who were not pre-theological students, effectually making the institution a preparatory school. In 1900, the curriculum further broadened, making it more attractive to students interested in teaching or preparing for professional courses at universities. In 1901, Calvin admitted the first women to the school.
In 1906, the literary department of the college became known as John Calvin Junior College and the college held its first commencement. The student newspaper Chimes was first published in 1907. Around 1910, the West Michigan cities of Muskegon and Kalamazoo fought to have Calvin relocate to their respective cities. Muskegon offered US$10,000 (approximately $260,000 in 2015 dollars) and a tract of land to attract the college. The city of Grand Rapids countered with its own $10,000 offer and the junior college chose to stay in Grand Rapids. In time, the two-year college became a four-year college, and the preparatory department was discontinued. In 1917, John Calvin Junior College moved to the Franklin Street Campus, which was the southeast edge of Grand Rapids at the time. Two years later the college appointed its first president, the Rev. J.J. Hiemenga. Then a year later, in 1920, the college officially transitioned into a four-year college following the liberal arts philosophy of the Free University in Amsterdam as laid out by Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper. The next year the college awarded its first bachelor's degree. In 1924, with the opening of Grand Rapids Christian High School, the college offered its last year of preparatory education, turned its focus exclusively to higher education, and opened its first dormitory. In 1925, the college began a teacher training program and, in 1926, appointed its first female faculty member, Johanna Timmer, as Dean of Women. The college dedicated its library, the Hekman Library on March 8, 1928. The college later dedicated its seminary building at the Franklin Street Campus on October 29, 1930. Still under the leadership of Rev. Hiemenga the college faced significant trouble during the Great Depression as financial hardship beset the college.
Although the school grew slowly in these early years, by 1930 it had reached its pre-World War I size of 350-450 students. Like many colleges in the United States, the end of the war led to the fastest enrollment increase in Calvin's history. By 1950 the enrollment had climbed to 1,270 and Calvin joined the M.I.A.A.. The enrollment increase led to space limitations at the Franklin Campus. William Spoelhoef became president of Calvin in 1951.
In 1956, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church authorized the college to purchase the Knollcrest Farm from J.C. Miller for $400,000 (approximately $3.6 million in 2018). Located beyond the Grand Rapids city limits at the time, the Knollcrest farm increased Calvin's campus from approximately one large city block to 390 acres (1.6 km2) with a 100 acres (0.40 km2) nature preserve. Many were reticent about the project and the college's ability to finance it, but Spoelhof pursued the initiative. The Theological Seminary was first to move to the new campus since it did not need to be close to the rest of college, building a new academic building and holding classes there starting in 1960. As space constraints became more noticeable on the Franklin campus, the college built its first academic building on the Knollcrest Campus and first held classes there in 1962. For the next 10 years, the college continued to operate at both the Knollcrest and Franklin campuses, until fully transitioning to the Knollcrest Campus in 1973. During the latter decades of the 20th century, Calvin grew to around 4,200 students. In 1991, the seminary and the college established separate boards of trustees.
At the turn of the millennium, Calvin began several new construction projects. Among these were a new communications and political science building, a conference center and hotel. In 2006, Calvin announced an expansion of the Fieldhouse which was completed in the spring of 2009. Shortly after, in 2010, Calvin completed an extensive renovation and expansion of the Fine Arts Center, thereafter rededicated as the Covenant Fine Arts Center.
The curriculum has expanded to include professional training in a variety of fields, but the college maintains a strong commitment to a liberal arts curriculum, which the college views as a means to develop students' understanding of God's world and their place in it.
The school made national headlines in 2005 when US President George W. Bush served as commencement speaker. Reactions among students and faculty were mixed. According to the Washington Post, more than 800 faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the school signed a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press, saying that Bush's policies "...violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College."
In the summer of 2008, The Capella of Calvin College, the concert choir of Calvin under the direction of professor Joel Navarro, earned two third prizes in the Mixed and Free Category at the 37th Florilege Vocal de Tours Competition in Tours, France.
In August 2009, the college's Board of Trustees issued a controversial memo to all employees that said that faculty were prohibited from teaching, writing about, or advocating on behalf of homosexuality or homosexual issues such as same-sex marriage. Many faculty members were critical of the policy and of the way it was adopted without consultation by the board. The Faculty Senate, by a vote of 36-4, asked the Board to withdraw the memo. The official policy of the college continues to be that the "proper place" for sexual relations is a "marriage relationship between a man and a woman".
In June 2012, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church of North America voted to appoint Michael K. Le Roy as the president of Calvin College, succeeding President Gaylen J. Byker. Within months of assuming office, President Le Roy disclosed that Calvin faced a financial crisis, with $117 million in debt at the time. As part of the debt reduction plan, Calvin successfully raised $25 million in eight months to reduce its long-term debt to $90 million and continues to implement cost-cutting measures. In September 2015, four lightly enrolled majors were reduced to minors and one minor eliminated, marking the final step in academic division prioritization.
Calvin College rebranded itself Calvin University on July 10, 2019, a date that matches the birthday of John Calvin, the college's namesake. As a school that already had numerous departments and centers, it was determined that a name change to Calvin University would make the college more attractive to potential students, as internationally, colleges are considered a lower academic category than a university.
Calvin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Calvin offers majors or minors in 109 academic or pre-professional fields. The most popular majors are engineering, business, and nursing. Calvin is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and as an institution in the Reformed tradition of Christianity, subscribes to a robust theology that produces a high regard for participating in and forming culture.
Because Calvin is a liberal arts college, it has established a core curriculum with three parts: Gateway, Competencies and Studies, and Capstone. The average student takes 45 hours of core courses in the course of a four-year degree at Calvin.
When students matriculate into Calvin, they begin their studies with a first-year, Core Gateway seminar which introduces students to issues of learning, identity, vocation, discernment, and awareness through discussions and presentations. Students also take Developing a Christian Mind (DCM) in the discipline of their choice, a course which (through the lenses of various academic disciplines) introduces the idea of Christian worldview and faith-based engagement with culture.
Calvin students are required to take a number of essential classes focusing on Core Competencies and Core Studies. Core Competencies, such as written rhetoric, world language, and information technology, develop skills essential to success in the academic and professional worlds. Core studies courses introduce students to a variety of disciplines, providing them with a greater understanding of the world and integration of ideas essential to a well-rounded liberal arts education. Typically a number of core courses will overlap with major and minor requirements.
The Capstone course, generally taken during the senior year, draws together themes and concepts from the core curriculum. Some Capstone course are intended for students of specific majors, while others may be unrelated to a student's chosen major(s) and minor(s), such as PHIL 205: Ethics, which can qualify as the capstone course for students of any major, including non-philosophy majors.
Calvin offers a large number of off-campus programs and ranks 2nd out of baccalaureate institutions for the number of students who study abroad each year.
Calvin runs 11 of its own off-campus semester programs. These programs are led by Calvin faculty to ensure that students receive the same caliber of education that they would receive on campus. These programs are currently offered in the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, Peru, Spain, and Washington, D.C..
Additionally, Calvin works with numerous other colleges to offer dozens of other off-campus programs around the world.
Calvin also offers a variety of off-campus programs during the one-month interim term that takes place each January. In January 2017, Calvin offered 33 different off-campus programs around the world (this number fluctuates slightly each year).
Calvin acquired the 166-acre (0.67 km2) property in the mid-1950s and began a process of turning a biologically diverse farm into a center for Christian higher education. The master plan for the site was developed in 1957 by William Beye Fyfe, an adherent of the Prairie School of architecture. Working with President Spoelhof, Fyfe came up with a set of design principles for the campus aimed to both symbolically represent and physically promote such ideals as the integration of faith and learning; integration of administration, faculty, and students; and the inter-relatedness of all the disciplines. The integration of knowledge is symbolized in the arrangement of the academic buildings. Unlike many college campuses which feature an impressive structure, like a chapel, tower, or administrative hall, at the center of campus, Calvin has no central building. The major buildings on campus form a great circle around the Commons Lawn. The lawn was intended and serves as the common point of interaction between faculty, students, and administration. Following the ideal of an integrated community, most buildings serve a variety of purposes. Administration is mixed with classrooms, faculty offices and lecture halls. Departments are not sequestered from other departments in separate buildings; instead many departments share facilities to encourage the solidarity of purpose and unity contributing to a strong inter-departmental character and strong Christian community.
Calvin has nine academic buildings on campus.
The first to be constructed was Hiemenga Hall, named after John Hiemenga and built in 1961. Hiemenga Hall houses numerous academic departments including modern languages, history, philosophy, classical languages, gender studies, and religion. The building also houses the Honors Program office, Student Academic Services as well as other programs and offices. It is connected to the campus chapel and the Spoelhof Center via underground tunnels.
The Spoelhof Center, named after president emeritus William Spoelhof, houses the art, education, social work and sociology departments, the Office of the President, and several other administrative departments. The Gezon Auditorium is also housed in the Spoelhof Center. Dedicated in 1974, the Gezon Auditorium primarily serves as the main stage for the Calvin Theatre Company. Like the CFAC, it has flexible lighting and sound systems and serves as a venue for concerts, lectures and other events. The Spoelhof Center connects to the Science Building and Hiemenga Hall via underground tunnels.
The Science Building houses many of the science departments at Calvin, including engineering, physics, astronomy, psychology and nursing. The building also includes half of the Calvin-Rehoboth Robotic Observatory. When there are favorable skies, the observatory is open to the public on most weeknights. The Science Building is also distinctive for having been designed in the shape of a hexagon, emulating the benzene ring. In 2009, it was the backdrop for scenes of the film The Genesis Code.
Constructed in 1998, DeVries Hall houses classrooms, faculty offices, research labs and a greenhouse. In addition to the biology and chemistry departments, the building houses the West Michigan Regional Lab, a consortium between the college and local hospital, Spectrum Health.
Attached to DeVries Hall and the Science Building is North Hall, which houses several departments including economics, business, geology, geography, environmental studies, computer science, and mathematics.
To the west of North Hall is the Engineering Building which consists of the Prince Engineering Design Center and the Vermeer Engineering Projects Center. The Engineering Building was constructed in 1999 and houses faculty and student research facilities, metal and wood shops, a wind tunnel, a three-dimensional printer, and an anechoic chamber.
The Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex, located on the north end of campus, houses a number of classrooms and houses the Kinesiology department. The fieldhouse underwent a major renovation and expansion in 2009.
The Covenant Fine Arts Center is one of the most recognizable buildings on campus, given its giant heptagon shape. Designed around the central auditorium, which seats 1,011, the CFAC houses the Music and English departments. The CFAC auditorium is the preeminent musical performance space on campus featuring exceptional acoustics. At the back of the stage is the 39 rank, 32 stop mechanical action organ built by Schlicker Organ Company in 1966. Since its opening, the CFAC has hosted over 18,000 events. The auditorium is designed for versatility and is equipped with acoustical curtains, shifting acoustic deflection panels, a stage lift, and three catwalks. The building was closed for 2009-2010 for extensive remodeling.
In 2002, the DeVos Communication Center was constructed across the East Beltline Road. It is connected to west campus by the Calvin Crossing bridge. The building's upper level houses department and faculty offices for both the political science and communications arts and sciences departments. Additionally, there is a suite of audiology and speech pathology classrooms and facilities including a working clinic. The lower level of the building features media production and consumption facilities such as the Bytwerk Video Theatre, an audio studio, sound stage, control room, and editing suites for audio and video production. The ground floor features classrooms, a public atrium, and a snack shop.
Beginning in 1917 with 3,500 volumes, Calvin's "library room" eventually became the modern Hekman Library now boasting over 2.1 million volumes. The collection's emphasis is on works in the traditional liberal arts disciplines. The library's strongest collections are in Theology, Religion, American literature, British literature, and Philosophy.
In terms of books, serial backfiles, and other paper materials held, Hekman Library is currently the largest private academic library in the state.
The H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies is located in the Hekman Library. The center specializes in John Calvin and Calvinism. With many rare items, books, manuscripts, articles and literature, the Meeter Center is the largest collection of Calvin materials in North America.
The Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex is home to the combined health, physical education, recreation, dance and sport department. In Spring 2007, the college began a $50 million construction project to renovate and expand the Calvin Fieldhouse. The fieldhouse reopened in Spring 2009 as the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex. The 362,000 square feet (33,600 m2) facility includes a new 5,000 seat arena (Van Noord Arena) which is currently the largest arena in a Division III school, an Olympic-regulation swimming pool (Venema Aquatic Center) which seats about 550, a tennis and track center (Huizenga Tennis and Track Center) containing 4 tennis courts and a 200-meter track, 14,000 square feet (1,300 m2) of weight training rooms and a custom made rock climbing wall. The Hoogenboom Health and Recreation Center contains the original renovated gym that is now used for basketball, volleyball, PE classes, intramurals, and many concerts. The Hoogenboom Center also has two dance studios as well as racquetball courts and exercise science laboratories.
Though always part of the master plan, the Chapel was not built until the late 1980s. The chapel holds daily services in a protected time slot to ensure that all students and faculty members are able to attend the 20 minute worship services if they so choose. Chapel services follow a weekly rhythm and each day of the week has a different theme (Believe, Behold, Belong, Be Still, and Be Loud).
Designed by GMB Architects, the chapel sits at the highest point of the academic circle and its spire rises above all of the academic buildings. Shaped as an octagon, with seating in the round, the Chapel offers exceptional acoustics for both instrumental and vocal music, in addition to the spoken word. The Chapel also features a large organ built by Dobson Pipe Organ Builders. The three manual instrument features mechanical key action with a detached console. The facade pipes, made of 75% burnished tin, conceal some 2,500 pipes. In addition to the sanctuary, the Chapel has small prayer rooms, meeting spaces, a kitchen, theatre storage and rehearsal spaces.
A tunnel system connecting to the Spoelhof Center creates an outdoor plaza at ground level and the multi-use Lab Theatre below. The Lab Theatre is a blackbox theatre built in 1988 as a part of the chapel building project.
Bunker Interpretive CenterEdit
The Bunker Interpretive Center is located in Calvin's nature preserve and serves as the home base for formal programs and an educational resource for the approximately 5,000 casual visitors that the Calvin College Nature Preserve receives annually. The Bunker Interpretive Center is Gold LEED certified.
Calvin has seven residence halls on campus which house the majority of the freshman and sophomore classes, as the college has a policy that forces most first and second year students to live on campus. First and second year students may live off-campus if they lodge with their parents, it has been more than two years since their high school graduation date, or if they qualify for a rare exception.
One of the most notable events put on by residence life is "Chaos Day", during which the residents of each of the halls have their own theme, decorate their dorm, and dress in costumes to compete in a number of relay races and similar games. The dorm building Schultze-Eldersveld has traditionally dominated the Chaos Day competition and has the most victories of any hall. Floor Serenades, when one floor goes around campus singing songs to other floors, and Floor Dates, when two or more floors plan an activity together in order to meet new people, are common occurrences on campus.
Student Activities Office and The Calvin Concert SeriesEdit
The Student Activities Office at Calvin plans and hosts many films, concerts, and lectures aimed to foster cultural engagement and discernment in a Christian context. The Student Activities Office shows a wide variety of popular and lesser-known films throughout the year. Admission to these films, hosted in the Covenant Fine Arts Center, is $1.
Calvin is also notable for its extensive concert series. Before each concert, Calvin hosts a question and answer session with students and the artist. These sessions are meant to give artists a way to converse with students about their music and art. Calvin has hosted a variety of acts including: Fun., Switchfoot, Death Cab for Cutie, Sufjan Stevens, MuteMath, Gungor, MGMT, the Soil & the Sun, Twin Forks, Ingrid Michaelson, Home Free, Regina Spektor, Over the Rhine, Anberlin, Jon Foreman, Peter Rollins and David Bazan, Kishi Bashi, All Sons & Daughters, NEEDTOBREATHE, Shad, Miracles of Modern Science, Diego Garcia, San Fermin, The Brilliance, Delorean, Pop Scholars, Okkervil River, The Head and The Heart, The National, Julianna Barwick, Lone Bellow, The Milk Carton Kids, Lily & Madeleine, Lecrae. The January Series also offers a wide selection of authors, singers, and musicians.
Because of its extensive and varied concert series, the Student Activities Office has faced controversy over the years. In September 2010, the college canceled a concert by Canadian indie rock band, The New Pornographers. According to an official statement released by Calvin, the concert was cancelled after several complaints were made due to the band's name referring to pornography. Fun.'s advocacy of changed marriage laws when Calvin hosted them in 2012 was also met with significant controversy.
Campus security and parking policy enforcement services are provided Calvin College's Campus Safety Department. Some Calvin College campus safety officers have been armed with firearms since 2008, a decision that the Campus Safety Department director William Corner describes as a response to concerns that the College was not adequately prepared to respond to a similar event following the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting. Initially, only Campus Safety supervisors who were former law enforcement and fully licensed to carry firearms on a school campus were permitted to carry firearms on Calvin's campus. At that time, all campus safety supervisors were issued collapsible batons, chemical spray and handcuffs as standard policy, even if they were not armed with a firearm.
At the time and until 2017, non-supervisory Campus Safety officers were student employees who performed their duties unarmed. In 2017, the Campus Safety Department made the decision to discontinue hiring students for non-supervisory campus safety officer roles, electing instead to hire former law enforcement officers who were licensed to carry firearms on campus. The Department continued to employ students employees as dispatchers, building security officers and customer service staff. The Campus Safety Department director, William Corner, stated that student officers were not fully qualified for the risk level of some of the incidents they were responding too. “We were putting the students in positions that, honestly, I was not comfortable with for their safety and their level of experience.” 
In September 2014, full-time, non-student Calvin College campus safety personnel began wearing body cameras while on duty. Officers are required to turn on the cameras in specific circumstances.
In 2016, Calvin College was described as being a model for the arming of campus security staff at other smaller college institution in the United States.
A Calvin College campus safety supervisor was criminally charged with "reckless use of a firearm" after a November 2016 on-duty incident. The armed supervisor, Lee Swafford allegedly did not fire his duty firearm in the incident that resulted in his arrest, but after a routine review of body camera footage by the Campus Safety Department director William Corner, the decision was made to place Swafford on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Swafford was fired by Calvin College on December 6, 2016 after an internal investigation that led to all evidence being forwarded to the Grand Rapids Police Department and then charged by Kent County persecutors in February 2017. Swafford turned himself in to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest and was then released on bail. In an open letter to college students, faculty, staff and visitors, College president Michael Le Roy described the officer's actions as "deeply disappointing to me." He also stated that the incident had involved a campus visitor, not a student or staff member.
Calvin College implemented a "one button" campus lockdown system in 2017. The new Lenel system can lockdown every exterior door on the college campus with the push of a single button. The college has also offered active shooting training to some staff and students.
|U.S. News & World Report||1|
Calvin University has approximately 3,918 students, 54.8% female and 45.2% male. The average class size is 24, and there is a 13:1 student/faculty ratio. Michigan students comprise 52.5% of the student body and 11% of the students are from other countries. The college has an 84.6% retention rate from first to second year and a six-year graduation rate of 75.9%. 252 full-time faculty teach at the college and 89.3% have the terminal degree in their field. 104 part-time faculty also teach at the college.
The middle 50% of incoming first year students at the college have a GPA (4.0 scale) between 3.45 and 3.99, an ACT composite score between 23 and 30, and a SAT Critical Reading and Math score between 1060 and 1315.
Tuition is currently $33,100, room and board is $9,990, and yearly fees are about $235. Approximately 99% of students receive some sort of financial aid.
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- Meindert DeJong, a Dutch-born American writer of children's books who won the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
- Betsy DeVos, former chair of the Republican party in Michigan and current Secretary of Education
- Keith DeRose, Allison Foundation Professor of Philosophy at Yale University
- Richard DeVos, founder of Amway and Orlando Magic CEO
- William K. Frankena 1930, moral philosopher, Chairman UofM philosophy department, Distinguished Alumnus
- Hans Halvorson, Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University
- Wayne Huizenga, businessman (attended)
- Bill Huizenga, U.S. Congressman
- Rose Ibiama 2005, member of Academy Award-winning DreamWorks Animation teams
- M.I Abaga, Nigerian Musician
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- John Witte Jr. 1982, Robert W. Woodruff Professor at Emory University School of Law
- Lionel Basney, Professor of English, poet, author, critic
- Johannes Broene, 1908-1925 teaching primarily in Philosophy and Education but also classes in History, Civics, Government, Chemistry, and Psychology
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- Vern Ehlers, 1966–1982, Professor of Physics, served as U.S. Representative from Grand Rapids
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- William Harry Jellema, 1920–1936, 1948-1963 founder of Calvin's Philosophy Department
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- H. Evan Runner, 1951–1981, Professor of Philosophy
- Gary Schmidt, 1986–present, Professor of English, awarded two Newbery Honor awards for his young-adult fiction
- James K.A. Smith, 2002–present, Professor of Philosophy
- William Spoelhof, 1946–1951, Professor of History and Political Science
- Ralph Stob, 1915–1964, Professor of Classics
- Howard J. Van Till, Emeritus Professor of Physics
- Nicholas Wolterstorff, 1959–1989, Professor of Philosophy
Students at Calvin publish a weekly student newspaper, Chimes, and a monthly journal of arts and letters commentary, Dialogue. A yearbook, Prism, is also published for each school year. Student filmmakers have also made many short films and videos, like the popular Lipdub at Calvin College and the super-low-budget adaptation of Homer's Iliad, Meynin, both in 2010.
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