On Tuesday, professor Jennifer Holberg of the English department was recognized as a “YWCA Woman of Achievement” at a YWCA Tribute Awards luncheon.
The luncheon, held at DeVos Place, honored six women active in the Grand Rapids community in areas such as advocacy, the arts and community service. The YWCA also recognized women active in businesses, organizations and institutions in the area, and Holberg was the honoree from the Calvin community.
Rather than being a professor who stays solely in the English department with her books and her literature students, Holberg is active across campus, participating in Fridays at Calvin panels, working with Student Life and helping the college fundraise. She also teaches a CALL (Calvin Academy of Lifelong Learning) course every semester, providing a chance for older community members to keep learning about variety of subjects, even after their college days have passed.
“It’s been important to me personally to be involved across the campus and to think about the work that we’re all trying to do together,” said Holberg.
Chaplain Mary Hulst, who attended the luncheon with Holberg, some of her colleagues in the English Department and Provost Cheryl Brandsen, acknowledged the importance of Holberg’s role in the Calvin community.
“Profesor Holberg is a great college leader,” said Hulst. “She is the vice chair of faculty senate now and has really cleaned up a lot of stuff that needed to be cleaned up around committees and how they’re structured and who’s on them. Calvin hums because Jennifer Holberg is here.”
Professor Rienstra, the co-chair of the English Department, called Holberg a gift to the department and the college.
“She is a person of unstoppable energy, great good humor and committed faith,” said Rienstra. “Best of all, she is always looking for ways to serve others: her students, her colleagues, the college and the profession.”
Holberg said that being honored as a Woman of Achievement was both humbling and heartening.
“We’re called to serve — we don’t do this for the recognition. But it’s wonderful to see the community support and to know that you don’t work alone. There is this great community that appreciates you and cheers you on.”
And it is not only the Calvin community that Holberg referred to, but the Grand Rapids area as a whole.
“What I really enjoyed about the lunch was sitting at a table with so many accomplished women and thinking that together we get to participate in all these cool and important things. It’s such a privilege to work with so many wonderful colleagues at Calvin and to know about the work that is going on in these other organizations too,” she said.
And of course, as a professor, much of Holberg’s emphasis is on the next generation of students and what they could achieve.
“It’s exciting to think about all the students that are going to go out and do this amazing stuff. Maybe I had a huge effect on them, maybe a tiny effect, but I got to have this moment where I could help prepare them for what God wants them to do.”