Broene rename follows historical trend

The lobby of the Center for Counseling and Wellness, found on the second floor of the Spoelhof Center. Photo courtesy

The lobby of the Center for Counseling and Wellness, found on the second floor of the Spoelhof Center. Photo courtesy

As part of the recent changes, director Irene Kraegel has been researching the history of the newly-renamed J. Broene Center for Counseling and Wellness. Even before the spring 2017 rebranding, the Center has gone through at least three name changes.


The Man

Johannes Broene was born in Muskegon, Mich. in 1875, only one year before Calvin College was founded. His father, Rev. Geert Broene, was a student in the first class to graduate from Calvin.

Johannes Broene attended the University of Michigan and earned his degree at the University of Valparaiso. He also spent time studying at Harvard University and the University of Chicago.

After achieving his bachelor’s degree, Broene studied for a master’s degree in psychology at Clark University. He studied under famous psychologist Stanley Hall, then continued for his PhD at Clark University. His doctrinal dissertation was titled “The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche.”

While he studied for his PhD, Broene served as a teacher and principal at Christian schools in New Jersey and Chicago, Illinois, then began teaching at Calvin College in 1908. He taught classes in philosophy, education, history and chemistry, among other subjects. He was Calvin’s first professor of psychology.

Broene was asked to serve as interim president in 1925 and served until he was appointed acting-president in 1928. As president, Broene was known for being able to skillfully find a compromise between the board of trustees and faculty.

Yet Broene always enjoyed his role as a teacher more than an administrator, especially the fundraising part of his job. He persistently asked the board to release him from the presidency, and they finally agreed in 1929. However, he was again asked to serve as interim president in 1940. He agreed, with the condition that it would only be a one-year appointment.

Although he officially retired from teaching at Calvin in 1945, Broene continued to teach until he and his wife Josie Kleinhuizen moved to Arizona. in 1951. He died in 1967 and was buried in Grand Rapids at Oakhill Cemetery.

In addition to his thesis on Nietzsche, Broene left behind lectures and writings on education, some of which can be found in Hekman Library. He wrote “The qualifications essential in a Christian teacher” and “Some current educational ideals.”


The Center

In May of 1965, two years before Johannes Broene died, Calvin College opened the Calvin Psychological Institute. This new institute was started as an independent agency and modeled after a similar institute at the Free University of Amsterdam, which was founded by Abraham Kuyper. The Calvin Psychological Institute was headquartered in a house on Sylvan Ave which was named The Johannes Broene Center.

According to the 1968-69 Calvin College course catalog, “The institute does not aim at long-term treatment for severely emotionally disturbed or retarded individuals. Rather, the main task of the carious guidance services is conceived to be guidance in milder emotional and social problems, learning problems, and vocational problems.”

In 1971 the institute asked the board of trustees to incorporate it into the college. In addition, current director Irene Kraegel said Calvin Psychological Institute “wasn’t the most warm and fuzzy name, and so in 1971 it was renamed to be the Broene Center” because of the house it was located in.

A series of name-changes followed in quick succession during the early 70s. In the 1971-72 course catalog it is listed as the Broene Center for College and Community Services. In 1972-73 as the Broene Student Counseling Center. Then in 1973-74 as the Broene Counseling Center.

These changes to the name reflected a shifting focus toward the Calvin College community and away from the community at large. In 1988 it was again renamed as the Broene Center for Counseling and Career Services. This reflected the focus on career guidance until career services incorporated the guidance focus in the early 2000s. The 1990-91 course catalog explains:

“The Broene Center offers services in the areas of personal counseling, life enrichment, career development, and placement.” However, the “placement” services were not mentioned in the following year’s edition.

The institute was initially run by Dr. Roelof Bijkerk. Dr. Alfred J. Reynolds was brought on as a consultant to run research at the institute, then served as the next director. Warren Boer directed the Center from 1981-2000. Randall Wolthuis ’76 directed the center from September 2000 until he left in 2010. Cindy Kok ’81 then led from 2010 until 2016.


The Future

Irene Kraegel began as a counselor working at Broene in February 2009, served as the interim director from 2014-15, then took on the role of director when Cindy Kok left in August 2016. Since she was hired, staff levels have not changed much. However, she remarked that the use of services has steadily climbed.

When she started in 2009, around 16% of the students at Calvin used services at Broene. Now those numbers are up to 21%. Because there is not enough staff to serve each student individually, Kraegel has initiated the stepped-care model, which includes more groups, workshops and peer-led initiatives. Recently students were invited to apply for the new student advisory board.

Along with the change of model, Kraegel also oversaw the most recent name change.

“The heart and soul of our work is to increase wellness across campus in all sorts of forms. We’re very aware that wellness is not limited to the counseling room.” The center is now called the J. Broene Center for Counseling and Wellness, to honor the Broene legacy.

Kraegel’s goal with the Center is to increase student wellness in all forms. She stressed that emotional health does not primarily happen during an appointment with a counselor, but in day in/day out life.

“So when we were making changes to our model last year, really our goal has been to expand the reach of the Counseling Center so that more students can access our services.”

This transition is in line with what college counseling centers at other colleges are doing. In fact, Kraegel said Calvin has become a model for other schools to learn from.

“Lots of people are talking about stepped care right now and there’s a small number of schools that have actually implemented it…so I feel that we are being used as a model,” said Kraegel.

This transition has allowed students to get in more quickly as well. Instead of the previous two to three week wait time, a student can request an intake appointment within one day. Kraegel said a quicker response time means fewer crises to respond to.

“Because we don’t own mental wellness here at the Counseling Center,” they partner with other departments at Calvin such as MSDO and the career center to promote wholesome wellness.

“Thriving happens everywhere,” Kraegel added. “That’s resilience. That’s exactly what we are in the business of supporting.”