Calvin involves students in search for VP of student life

Photo by Katelyn Bosch

Photo by Katelyn Bosch

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Calvin has begun its search for a new vice president of student life after Shirley Hoogstra left Calvin this fall, having served in the position for the past 15 years.

A committee of 11 members will conduct the search. The committee is co-chaired by President Le Roy and chemistry professor Doug Vander Griend and includes provost Cheryl Brandsen, two students and several other professors and staff members.

The committee hopes to hire a new vice president early in the spring semester.

“We have just completed gathering survey info from all members of the Calvin community on primary priorities, but have not processed the responses yet as a committee,” said Vander Griend.

The committee sent the survey to every Calvin student, and its members plan to use the information it gathers to help guide the search process.

“The person is going to be serving the students, so what do the students want?” said junior Becky Ajuonuma, one of two students on the search committee. “Without getting their response, we can’t move forward.”

Student life at Calvin oversees a large number of smaller divisions, including residence life, the service-learning center, judicial affairs, intercultural student development, the Broene Counseling Center, campus ministries, campus safety and health services, among others.

Since so many of these divisions work directly with Calvin students, Calvin is striving to give students input into this decision making process.

“The VP isn’t going to be serving the committee. They’re going to be serving the students,” Ajuonuma pointed out. Ajuonuma explained that she and the other student on the committee, Evans Lodge,  “provide the student perspective — an extra eye, an extra ear.”

She said that as members of the Calvin community give feedback about what they’re looking for in a candidate, the committee incorporates it directly into an “opportunity profile” that outlines the qualifications they look for in a candidate, similar to a detailed job description.

The ideal candidate would be someone who “communicates well, is relational and is very involved,” said Ajuonuma. “It’s definitely based on what the students want.”

As the students give input, the faculty and staff at Calvin continue to contribute their opinions as well.

“From the viewpoint of a member of the faculty, I’d hope we get candidates who are thoughtful about the relationship between student life and the academic mission of the college,” added professor William Katerberg of the history department, another member of the search committee.

Katerberg also mentioned some issues that the incoming candidate will need to address.

“I hope the candidates have thought about how the landscape of higher education is changing today in the U.S. and what this will mean for student life programs at Christian and residential colleges like Calvin,” said Katerberg.

“Calvin offers a very holistic model of undergraduate education, but the trend in the U.S. is towards a more a la carte model. Can we offer a Calvin education and student experience a la carte? Should we try? Or should we resist that model?”