UnLearn Week brings together new and returning speakers


Hadassa Ribeiro

UnLearn Week will include 13 events and feature both new and returning speakers.

UnLearn week is a “kickoff event for our year-round program series” to provide “a safe campuswide forum for conversations designed to UnLearn biases and promote biblical antiracism,” Jane Bruin, Center for Intercultural Development director, said. This year’s UnLearn Week will feature both returning speakers, like former Calvin social work professor Joseph Kuilema, and new names like recently hired Coordinator for Student Support and Sexuality Programming Jodi Van Wingerden. 

UnLearn week will include 13 events on a range of topics, including the experience of international students, digital divide, critical race theory, the murder of Patrick Lyoya by a Grand Rapids police officer and mindfulness in advocacy. 

The week will kick off with a panel discussion led by first-time UnLearn week speaker Brent Wilkinson, Calvin’s associate director of immigration. The session —  “Lucky to Be Here?” — will explore the experiences of international students with the U.S. immigration system and expound on the concept of welcome in the U.S. and at Calvin, according to Wilkinson. 

“International students make up over 12% of Calvin’s student body. It’s important for us to listen to the experiences of such a large section of our community,” Wilkinson said.

Sessions on critical race theory and youth homelessness will be presented by Van Wingerden and Calvin alumnus Dre Davidson, both first-time contributors.

“I hope that people will learn more about the homeless population because I think it’s an overlooked population in Grand Rapids,” Davidson said. “I hope that this session humanizes them and that people would want to be more involved in working with that population and knowing that there’s really no difference between them and us.”

Davidson told Chimes he is thankful for the opportunity to return as an alum. “I never would have thought that I would be doing an UnLearn session at Calvin, but I’m grateful for the opportunity,” he said. “Calvin is where I got the basis of all of my social work education to even work with the homeless population and it’s because of Calvin that I’m able to give this presentation, so I’m really grateful for that.”

Kuilema, a familiar face on campus, will be leading a session on the murder of Patrick Lyoya by a former Grand Rapids police officer, an incident that took place less than three miles from Calvin. 

“I think this is something we have to pay attention to. It’s right in Calvin’s backyard. It involved people who share Calvin’s commitments to reformed visions of Christianity. And it’s an ongoing process,” Kuilema said. 

Yet, in addressing issues of anti-racism, Kuilema told Chimes that he had one concern. 

These issues “have become increasingly politicized at Calvin in a way that they weren’t 20 years ago,” he said. “So I think Calvin’s community has a long way to go to demonstrate its commitment to these sorts of discussions, both within UnLearn week and beyond, but that always makes you nervous to talk about it.”

Kuilema said he is “excited to be back on campus.”

“All the feedback I get about Professor Kuilema is positive. Everyone seems very excited for his session,” Bruin told Chimes.

Bruin hopes that attendees will take advantage of the opportunity to join the conversation around “topics of justice across a number of disciplines” because “having these conversations is important for our callings.”

To access the full schedule for the week, visit https://calvin.edu/offices-services/intercultural-student-development/events/ or contact the CISD.