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Alumni Board

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Most Calvin students have probably visited the Alumni Board Room or at least walked past it on the second floor of Commons Annex and wondered at what purpose it might fulfill. We assume that there must be an Alumni Board and that its members must use the room, but what is this elusive Alumni Board, who are its members and what do they do? It may come as a surprise, but the Alumni Board and its members serve an important role for both students and graduates of Calvin College.

What is the Alumni Board?

The Alumni Board is a group of Calvin alumni dedicated to building and strengthening Calvin’s alumni network for the benefit of both students and fellow alums. Calvin’s extensive web of alumni spans the globe Calvin alumni live in ninety-nine different countries so wherever students go, there is likely a Calvin grad nearby. Alumni are often very willing to come alongside new graduates, connect them with people and companies and help them become acquainted with the area. From this huge pool of alumni, twenty-some are selected to serve their fellow Calvin graduates as members of the Alumni Board for three years.

Mike Van Denend, Director of the Alumni Association, said that Alumni Board members see their work as a “two-way street”: they seek both to serve the college and to find ways for the college to serve alumni.

The Alumni Board began as a West Michigan regional board in the late 1940s and expanded to an international board in 1991. Mirroring this shift, the board’s bylaws require that members consider the full range of alumni diversity when selecting future members. This allows the alumni association to better understand and serve a variety of people and groups.

Who are the Alumni Board members?

The members of the board come from an assortment of backgrounds, locations and fields. Their jobs range from working at Microsoft, to serving as an army chaplain, to playing the organ at church. Recent grads and long-time graduates, French language, mathematics, music, elementary education and biology majors, natives of Chicago, Ontario, Ghana, South Korea and Grand Rapids alike; these people represent a wide range of cultures, languages and peoples. Take the board officers (pictured together below), for example.

Alumni Board Officers: (from left to right) Sierra Asamoa-Tutu, Oludare Odumosu, and Cheryl TenBrink (Photo provided by Calvin Alumni Association/Susan Buist)

Alumni Board Officers: (from left to right) Sierra Asamoa-Tutu, Oludare Odumosu, and Cheryl TenBrink (Photo provided by Calvin Alumni Association/Susan Buist). Photo by Cheryl TenBrink.

President: Oludare Odumosu

Oludare, or Dare, came to Calvin from Nigeria and graduated with a biology major and biochemistry minor in 2005. He now works at a pharmaceutical company doing business management and heads an eco-friendly eyewear brand in his spare time. Dare loves to sing, and he led worship at a church in California during his graduate student years. He describes himself as “an unserious person who does the most serious things and loves to find the fun in everything.”

President-elect: Sierra Asamoa-Tutu

Sierra grew up in Gallup, New Mexico as the youngest of four children and attended Rehoboth Christian School before coming to Calvin. After graduating with an interdisciplinary degree, she earned her masters in social work. Sierra currently works in the American Indian  community in Minneapolis, Minn. as a therapist through Healing Generations. She believes that we are all deeply connected to each other and hopes to make a positive impact in the world through education and healing work.

Secretary: Cheryl TenBrink

Cheryl calls Kalamazoo, Mich. home, but lived in California and Florida as a preacher’s kid. At Calvin, she studied economics and business and earned a Spanish minor before graduating in 1981. She went on to work as a mortgage loan officer before taking on the sizable job of being a stay-at-home mother to three children. Cheryl uses her keen observation skills and her talent in photography to document Alumni Board meetings and activities, likely making the current members the most photographed group in Alumni Board history.

The other eighteen board members have equally unique and colorful stories, and each is listed below along with their name and current job. The board members encourage input and ideas from students and alumni and can be contacted by emailing [email protected]

Current Alumni Board members (Photo provided by Calvin Alumni Association)

Bruce Buursma ’73, communications professional

Laura Caprara ’92, graphic designer and social media strategist

Twana Graves Davis ’93, speech-language pathologist

Jonathan Hirte ’08, legislative director in the office of Congressman Tim Walberg

Jim Jenkins ’87, principal program manager at Microsoft

Tim Katt ’09, technology platforms executive

Casey Kuperus ’97, talent finder at an employment company

Rosanne Lopers-Sweetman ’77, kinesiology and physical education faculty

Gene Miyamoto ’77, chief operating officer at a healthcare company

Christine Jacobs Mouw ’88, museum curator

Nate Plantinga ’94, attorney at Miller Johnson

Jeff Pyun ’93, U.S. Army chaplain

Brianna Sas-Pérez ’11, neighborhood planning director

Valerie Stegink Sterk ’83, organist/pianist and music coordinator at her church

Dave Tannor ’06, math and science program director for Baker College Online

Cathy Van Zeelt Van Donselaar ’88, learning specialist at an elementary school

David Vellenga ’60, retired Albion University economics professor

Lisa Kuyers Zylstra ’80, school administrative assistant

What do they do on campus?

Board members meet three times a year in the aforementioned Alumni Board Room, and are very active on campus during this time. At their next meeting, held February 2 through 4, the board members will participate in the K4L “Network and Nosh” event, dine with students who received Interim scholarships, review the next issue of Spark and attend Friday chapel. They will interview professors for Alumni Association research grants, brainstorm ways alumni can be involved in the admissions process and vote on candidates for the Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Alumni Board will also be talking with Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI) staff to discuss how Calvin will engage with the soon-to-graduate CPI students, some of whom are imprisoned for life.  

Three of the board members, Twana, Rosanne, and Christine, will be speaking at events hosted by the Speech Pathology, French and History Departments.

What do they do in their hometowns?

After meeting on Calvin’s campus, board members return to their hometowns for what is the majority of their work: serving alumni and connecting them to Calvin. They do this in a number of ways, but one of the most common ways is by telling fellow alums stories about what’s happening on campus. Each board member also has specific ways in which they strengthen and connect with their network.

For example, Dave Vellenga hosts a remote site for the January Series in Tucson, Arizona. He and several others will be hosting remote sites at restaurants for the Calvin-Hope men’s basketball game on February 18. In Denver, Colorado, Cathy Van Donselaar planned a send-off ice cream social for students before they left for Calvin this past fall. Several members hosted admissions recruiting events in Denver, Kalamazoo, Dallas and Chicago. Currently, Dave Tannor is coordinating the interview process for the Black Alumni Network Textbook Grants, another board project.

In everything they do, the Alumni Board members seek to engage with, inspire and strengthen alumni relations through events and by keeping alumni connected to Calvin College. They work to ensure that, despite having graduated, Calvin students never have to leave Calvin behind.

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