Presidential Perspective

Spring 2016

Dear Alumni, Parents and Friends of Hope College,

The first hints of warmer weather remind us that we will soon graduate another class of Hope College seniors. This year’s commencement exercises will have special meaning as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the college’s charter, granted by the State of Michigan in May 1866. Throughout this academic year we have celebrated our sesquicentennial by remembering the blessings of the past while looking with optimism to a future ripe with opportunity.

Expanding Global Learning

In my recent letters I have shared highlights of the college’s strategic plan, Hope for the World: 2025. Last summer I discussed our plans to strengthen the academic program; in the fall I shared our new initiatives to support students in exploring and growing in the Christian faith. Now I turn to the third of our six strategic goals, which promises:

Hope College will equip every student to lead and serve in a global society by orienting all areas of the college toward greater global engagement.

 

As I write this letter, I am traveling aboard a train between two European cities on a mission to develop new relationships with universities in Europe. We are now reassessing our academic presence in every part of the world to ensure that Hope students have access to globally relevant learning experiences of the highest quality. They now participate in a wide range of programs in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America, a network of offerings recently enhanced by joining the Consortium for Global Education, a worldwide collaborative of 40 Christian colleges and universities. Hope also is playing a leading role in a new Global Liberal Arts Alliance — 27 institutions in 15 nations sharing a commitment to the American model of education that integrates knowledge across disciplines and cultivates critical thinking, learning agility and social awareness.

No doubt some of you reading these words will recall the benefits of studying off campus while in college. If so, it is likely you still appreciate how this shaped your education and view of the world, for research tells us that the outcomes of such experiences include greater language proficiency, self-confidence, adaptability, appreciation of diversity, desire for further learning and appeal to employers. These attributes are increasingly important to our graduates who must work with people from more places of origin, cultures and languages than earlier generations ever imagined. For future leaders in our increasingly mobile, interconnected society, global literacy is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.

With this in mind, we have set an ambitious target for off-campus study. Over the next decade, we will increase participation by at least 50 percent, making it possible for three out of four students to benefit from such learning. As we do so, it will be crucial to ensure that no student is denied this opportunity for financial reasons. Therefore, we will ask our alumni, parents and friends to help us substantially increase the available support for those with greater need.

I am thankful that we are building on a solid foundation of international programs at Hope College. In November, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of our bilateral exchange partnership with Japan’s Meiji Gakuin University when a delegation led by President Hiroyoshi Udono visited our campus for a formal ceremony to renew our long-term agreement. And this summer we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Vienna Summer School, which remains highly popular with students. Dr. Stephen Hemenway, professor of English, will direct the program for his 41st consecutive year!

While we strengthen our tradition of international partnerships, we also seize new opportunities for experiential education abroad. This summer, for example, Hope College’s H2 Dance Company will perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Fringe Festival, held in Scotland’s capital in August, is one of the world’s largest and most visible international theater and dance festivals. The H2 Dance Company will perform the world premiere of Dieser Ort, a full-length evening work created by co-artistic director and Hope professor Matthew Farmer. A few weeks ago, we launched a crowdsourcing initiative to fund this trip for the company’s dancers, choreographers, directors and technical crew; you can participate in this effort by visiting crowdfunding.hope.edu/dance.

Encountering the World at Home

Even as we send more students abroad, we are working to create new opportunities for global learning on our own campus. Members of our faculty have for many years ensured that Hope’s curriculum provides ample opportunities to gain and apply international perspectives, and they continue to do so in new and creative ways. A recent example is a new minor in Peace and Justice that explores real-world issues at home and abroad.

We are also doing more to extend global learning beyond the classroom. Just this year, Hope College became an educational partner of the World Affairs Council, bringing noted speakers to campus to discuss global hotspots ranging from North Korea to Turkey. In February, our annual Critical Issues Symposium addressed the crisis in the Middle East with the help of several invited experts, including keynote speaker Nabil Costa who heads a Christian education and development organization in Lebanon and surrounding areas. Two weeks later, the World Christian Lecture Series featured the Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, founder of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, who spoke about immigration and racial justice.

A key to crafting a more global campus experience is the recruitment of more international students. Our strategic plan envisions a learning environment more reflective of the world where our students will live and serve. Leading this effort is our Admissions Office, which actively recruited in an unprecedented 12 countries this fall. We are encouraged by the fact that the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities is growing at its highest rate in 35 years. The United States hosts more of the world’s 4.5 million globally mobile college and university students than any other country in the world.

In this sesquicentennial year, we are reminded that our founders were immigrants who brought their own language and culture to the New World and wanted to ensure that future generations were educated to succeed in a society where people could come from the world over in pursuit of freedom and opportunity. By the late 1870s — just a few years after the first classes convened — Hope College enrolled its first international students, Motoichiro Oghimi and Kumaji Kimura of Japan. Kimura, the class valedictorian, delivered his graduation address in both Latin and Japanese. Oghimi went on to serve as a member of the first Board of Trustees for Meiji Gakuin University.

Our Global Network

Many colleges frame “global engagement” solely in the context of the student experience, but our plan calls for employees, too, to engage in enriching, cross-cultural encounters that promote global understanding and develop cultural proficiency. Thus, this is a shared responsibility of all divisions and departments.

Our strategic plan opens with a 10-year vision:

Hope College will gain national and international stature as both a premier liberal arts college and a leader in Christ-centered higher education.

 

To make this a reality, we must activate our worldwide alumni network to spread the word to prospective students and to help current students connect with internship and employment opportunities in the United States and abroad. I encourage you to join this important effort by sharing the names of potential students at hope.edu/refer.

Over the last year we have convened gatherings of Hope College alumni and friends in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Hanoi and London, in addition to several cities around the United States. We always enjoy visiting your location, but especially like to see you here on the Hope campus. Kelly and I invite you to join us on Alumni Weekend, Friday, April 29 – Saturday, April 30, to celebrate our sesquicentennial with events including a special program in the new Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts featuring an original musical composition commissioned by Dr. Tommye Leenhouts ’66 in honor of our 150th anniversary. To learn more about Alumni Weekend and register for the events, visit hope.edu/alumniweekend. I look forward to seeing you there!

Spera in Deo,

John C. Knapp, Ph.D.
President & Professor