Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Compass College closing sends many new students to Calvin

Savannah Shustack
Calvin’s Communications Department offers a number of programs.

Calvin’s student body swelled this year in part because of the 41 incoming film and media students arriving from Compass College. 

Compass College was a small Christian vocational-technical school of film and media located in downtown Grand Rapids. The curriculum was heavily focused on experiential learning, so according to former faculty member Phil Worfel, “most students definitely were meant to be getting practical experience of making stuff right away.” 

This summer, Compass closed, leaving many already admitted students without a school. Calvin’s and Compass’s administrations worked together to offer Compass students options in the wake of the closure, eventually allowing them to transfer to Calvin while maintaining their previous tuition rates. Calvin also hired adjunct professors to help accommodate the increased class sizes. 

Communications Professor Sam Smartt told Chimes he and others involved spent long hours over the summer working with the registrar to sort out transfer equivalencies and meeting with each student individually to help them find the best path forward, among other things.  

With these plans in place, logistical transitions for students to Calvin have gone smoothly. “That actual process was very simple,” Tyler Scanlan, a junior who transferred from Compass told Chimes. The “staff has been really nice, Sam has been very nice about everything. He’s very cool…a cool, approachable guy,” he said. 

Worfel has been impressed with the process; he said, “Calvin and Compass both really put those students first.”  

Former Compass students do not necessarily agree. “Once we got here, we felt a little bit robbed. Like, one of the reasons we go to a film school is like, ‘Oh, we have access to this expensive gear we’re not gonna normally have access to in our personal lives,’ but that never got transferred with us with Compass,” Scanlan said. 

The lack of equipment and the difference in the curriculum has made the transfer students feel “like this is just sort of Calvin wanting to increase their student count,” Luke Sittenauer, a sophomore from Compass said. “I could be completely wrong but it seems like the film program and stuff is kind of an afterthought. If they were more interested in it, they probably would have taken on more assets from Compass,” he told Chimes, though he acknowledged that he does not know everything going on behind the scenes. None of the students blame faculty at either school; rather, they question the priorities of leaders making these decisions. 

Dakota Aarhus, a sophomore who transferred from Compass, currently taking an upper-level film class at Calvin, told Chimes, “What they’re going over is what I went over as soon as I stepped foot into Compass.” 

Tazio LeVeque, another sophomore transfer student, and Scanlan both agreed. “I’m personally feeling like there’s a little bit of redundancy. I don’t like the fact that I have to redo some things that I’ve already done at Compass,” Scanlan said. 

From Worfel’s perspective, most of these issues are simply technical. Looking at the big picture of how the transition could have gone, he believes this has overall been a success. Additionally, as a former Compass faculty member, Worfel told Chimes that the focus of the film and media curriculum at Calvin is different from that of Compass. “The curriculum at compass was much more focused on getting your hands on equipment and actually going into production” while “there’s a much more academic focus at Calvin,” he said.

Students who went to Compass were looking for that hands-on kind of film program, so “there was a concern in shifting to a traditional liberal arts education that they would be diluting that experience or diluting the amount of film or media that they would be getting. I don’t think that’s really the reality,” according to Worfel.

Former Compass students are skeptical about the change but are optimistic. “They said they’re gonna try to adapt to make it more like Compass’s program, but we haven’t seen much of that yet, and so we’re hoping in the future they do,” LeVeque told Chimes

Despite these qualms, Calvin’s film department is excited for new students and new opportunities to grow. Smartt told Chimes, “Man, it feels exciting, like, we like having these folks around.”

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    Suzanna VanderbooneSep 20, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    So blessed these students had somewhere to go. It can always be stressful to switch schools, but it sounds like Calvin University has been handling this transition well!