Calvin cohorts begin recruiting for next year


Photo courtesy 3rd van Reken Facebook page.

Calvin’s cohort programs give incoming students the immediate opportunity to be a part of a ready-made community. Behind the scenes of the Arts Collective, Honors Scholars program, Ministry Leadership and Perkins Fellows, there are hours of hard work required to recruit the kinds of students these programs welcome.

 The Ministry Leadership Cohort is focused on character and action. Joanna Wigboldy, program manager for the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and director of the MLC, told Chimes the program equips students to find their own leadership roles based on God’s calling for their lives. Its goal is for students to feel confident in who God has created them to be and thrive in the leadership they’re called to, according to Wigboldy.

Perkins Fellows promotes student leadership dedicated to community development in the greater Grand Rapids area. Their mentor, John Perkins, is still involved with this group and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the group traveled down to [state] to see him annually. According to Emery Alspaugh, a junior political science major, instead of having one specific organization to work with, the group aims to help as many people and organizations as possible. Last semester, they participated in events including UnLearn Week, a discussion and showing of the movie “Just Mercy,” and many social gatherings.

All cohorts, currently transitioning to being called fellows programs, are preparing for interviews as prospective student applications roll in. This is a competitive time for applicants, filled with essays and interviews before a decision is made. For the Arts Collective, Honors and MLC, the entrance processes are similar.

Recruiting 2022’s first-year fellows began in September 2021 with making sure websites were up to date as high school seniors began exploring Calvin and the different opportunities it offers. Melissa Rousseau, director of undergraduate admissions, told Chimes the programs work very closely with admissions and collect applications from interested students throughout the fall. Admissions directs students to programs they might be interested in based on their application. According to Wigboldy, students must be admitted into Calvin by Dec. 1 to be considered for a cohort program.

According to Paula Manni-Pohler, Arts Collective program coordinator, recruitment efforts this year have involved new collaborations. “This year we had different informational sessions for students and parents. But instead of separately, the Arts Collective, Honors and Ministry Leaderships were all together in these,” she said. “This allowed our messaging to all be on the same page.” 

The Arts Collective, previously the Artist Collaborative, is designed for students who have strong passions for arts in a general sense. “This program is a great way to build friendships that might not have happened without it,” Manni-Pohler said. “We look for students who are curious, humble, and willing to work together to learn with each other.”

The Honors and Collegiate Scholars program and Honors Scholars fellows program, respectively, is made for academically gifted students who desire to engage with knowledge and ideas in new ways. Amy Wilstermann, associate professor in the biology department, and Craig Hanson, professor of art history, direct the Honors program along with program coordinator Mattie Koppendrayer. During the admissions process, the directors look for students who love to learn and are driven by curiosity, according to Wilstermann.

In the spring semester recruitment efforts begin in earnest. This year, cohorts are hosting visit weekends in person as well as virtually, giving prospective students an understanding of what the program is and the practical aspects of how they’ll be involved. Each program has at least one in-person visit option. “For MLC, we’ve learned the most important part of previewing the experience is to give students the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of current students,” said Wigboldy. 

The Arts Collective incorporates current students as tour guides. “We have different tours based on what field of interest the student has,” Manni-Pohler said. “This year we’re offering tours to Chimes, Dialogue, the arts gallery, music department and theater department.” 

These programs exclusively look towards recruiting first-year students; cohorts are not open to current students. According to Rousseau, this is partly to help grow the incoming class, generating more interest from prospective students and giving the admissions team more options for enrollment strategies. However, each cohort also sees the value of having everyone come in together and the community it creates as students take core classes and participate in different events together. 

Hannah Riffel, a senior studying writing and business, joined the Arts Collective to continue her love for poetry. “It’s exclusive but an intentional exclusivity so we can grow and go through the journey with each other,” she said. “It’s been my favorite experience at Calvin.”

Perkins, which has recently combined with the Grassroots living-learning floor, now allows for current-student applications. “Students will now be able to apply every year through the housing application,” said Alspaugh, a member of the Perkins Fellows. “I am incredibly excited for this change because it will bring a constant flow of dedicated individuals.”

Each program told Chimes they want students full of passion, excitement and interest in involvement. Along with specific questions pertaining to the program they’re applying to, the interview process includes discovering who these students are and what strengths they’ll bring to the program.   

The cohort programs have a shared emphasis on leadership and service among students. “We’re all part of the Calvin community, so how do you then use your leadership skills to serve Calvin’s community?” said Wigboldy.