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

Proposal for Calvin “Center for Faith and Technology” in the works

Efforts are underway to establish a “Center for Faith and Technology” at Calvin University.

Professors Derek Schuurman and Gayle Ermer – of the computer science and engineering departments, respectively – have been drafting a proposal for the new center.

According to an excerpt from a draft proposal given to Chimes, the new center would “explore the intersection between faith and technology and provide an academic, public, credible and Christian voice on technology issues.”

While the proposal remains in its preliminary stages, progress has been moving forward quickly.

“It’s been reviewed by the people in the engineering and computer science department. And it’s been submitted to the dean and the provost for consideration,” said Professor Schuurman in an interview with Chimes.

“The view is that we would not just be an internal center, but that we would be outwardly focused as well. And serving the church, building bridges with other organizations, being a credible voice in publications and podcasts and conferences, speaking to groups, and all those sorts of things,” Schuurman told Chimes.

According to Ermer, the department chair of engineering, the need for a “Center for Faith and Technology” has existed for quite some time. 

“The engineering department has been incubating the general idea of a Center/Institute for Faith and Technology for a long time,” Ermer told Chimes. “However, it has only been in the last few years, since Derek [Schuurman] has joined the faculty, that we’ve seen progress in developing a draft proposal.”

“When I first came to Calvin, I shared my dream for a Center for Faith and Technology. I sort of noted that Calvin has a lot of centers,” Schuurman told Chimes.

Calvin’s numerous centers & institutes – of which there are 11 – include the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, the Calvin Center for Innovation in Business and the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, among others.

“I kind of thought Calvin has the philosophical, theological capacity to be able to add a center in an area like technology,” said Schuurman. “The hope is that such a center would bridge folks in computer science and engineering as well as create bridges to folks in philosophy, […] and folks in the social sciences and including the humanities.”

One of the primary questions in philosophy, according to Schuurman, is “What does it mean to be human?” Finding the answer to that question involves branching out across disciplines.

Schuurman’s efforts to bring light to the ethical side of technology reach far beyond the world of Calvin. Schuurman has given talks at numerous academic institutions, written in various publications and is a member of various professional technical associations, among his many other professional qualifications.

“The center represents the core of what’s unique and compelling about computing and engineering programs at Calvin,” said Keith Vander Linden, the department chair of computer science. “We offer solid programs in both areas, as evidenced by our ABET accreditations for both the BCS [bachelor of computer science] and BSE [bachelor of science in engineering], but it’s the integration of the Reformed faith that sets our programs apart.”

As the proposal progresses through the review process, it comes at a time when Calvin is introducing a new data science program.

“Data science is a brand new academic area. A lot of schools are beginning data science programs, and thinking about integrating faith and data science is sort of a new frontier,” Schuurman told Chimes. “Thinking about faith integration in that particular area is something that needs to be done.”

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