A new, college-wide initiative at Hope College, the Boerigter Institute, will help ensure that every student is robustly prepared for career success and professional growth. This significant effort is made possible by a major gift from SoundOff Signal in honor of Founder and Chairman George Boerigter, who is a 1961 Hope graduate, and his wife, Sibilla. A task force of Hope faculty and staff is working to develop this new, cross-functional integrated program, bearing the Boerigters’ name and scheduled to begin implementation by the fall of 2017.

The goal of the Boerigter Institute is to transform the college’s approach to career preparation with an innovative, comprehensive framework that guides students from their first semester onward in identifying their strengths and interests and engaging them in career planning and experiential learning. It will more closely link multiple departments and programs at the college, and will focus on the needs of every student as they progress through college.

This initiative will build on the college’s strong foundation of graduate outcomes. In Hope’s most recent graduate survey, 95 percent of the Class of 2015 was in the workforce or in graduate school within six months, with 92 percent of the graduates having participated in experiential learning. With this gift, Hope aims to ensure that all students are guided in recognizing their passions, their gifts and that opportunities are available for accomplishing those goals.

“Our goal is to integrate career and professional development throughout the entire lifecycle of the student,” said Hope College President Dr. John C. Knapp.  “We will adopt a four-year approach to assure that students can no longer opt out of career development services, but from arrival until graduation will be supported in vocational discernment and practical preparation for lives of purpose.”

George Boerigter is the founder and chairman of Hudsonville-based SoundOff Signal. SoundOff Signal provides high-tech safety lighting solutions across the globe. In its 24-year history the company has grown every year – remarkably the company has never had a layoff or work force reduction and is about 30-percent owned by the employees through an ESOP.

The Boerigters have deep Hope College roots.  George and his three older brothers all went through Hope. George’s father worked as a custodian at the college to help put one of his sons though the college.  Two of George and Sibilla’s three sons graduated from the college, as did all three of their daughters-in-law.  They’ve also already had four grandchildren who have either attended or are attending Hope.

George and Sibilla both value their positive college experiences in preparing for their professional lives.  George’s path after Hope included graduating with a master’s in management from the University of Southern California and a Master of Divinity from Western Theological Seminary. He served 11 years as a pastor in the Reformed Church in America and then worked in leadership and management positions with a variety of companies before becoming a serial entrepreneur. After graduating from college, Sibilla taught English in high school. She left that career to be an at-home mom and active community resource. Only after the boys started college did she again enter the work force. She was the first director of the Hospice of Holland.

“Education is practical as well as intellectual, and I love the concept of putting the two together—having students find out what they love, what they’re passionate about, and helping them attain their goals,” Sibilla said.

George noted that he especially appreciates the emphasis of schools like Hope College, where faculty and staff are deeply invested in the development of their students.

“We are committed to Hope College because we believe that Hope offers every student the unique experience of being instructed and guided by passionate faculty who care about their students and will do whatever they can to help students accomplish their goals,” he said.

The Boerigter Institute will support the goals of the college’s strategic plan, “Hope for the World: 2025,” which includes engaging every student “in a holistically formative education, distinguished by its combination of academic rigor, intimate learning environment and experiential relevance, developed and delivered by nationally recognized teacher-scholars.”

With the Boerigter Institute in place, Hope College will extend career-development responsibility beyond the walls of the Career Development Center to academic advising, alumni engagement, off-campus programs, experiential learning opportunities and other facets of the student experience that may be linked more closely with the academic program. In doing so, Hope will expand its range of internship opportunities, which currently include hundreds of internships not only in West Michigan but through off-campus programs such as the college’s Philadelphia Center, and strengthen its network of potential employers for graduates.

“Under the auspices of the Institute, we will engage alumni as partners with students and their parents, opening the doors to internships and employment,” Knapp said.  “We’ll be working with our alumni in new ways to make sure that they become an even stronger network providing our students opportunities both in college and after college.”