Hope College (visited 11/11/16)
I always ask students who attend one of the “Colleges That Change Lives” just how that college changed their lives. Here’s what Hope students said:
- It’s helped me grow in ways I can’t even describe. I joined The Pull [description later]. We practice 3 hours a day and longer on weekends. I’ve met my best friends because of it. I’ve become so much more confident in my faith, my friends, and who I am here.
- In Basketball, I’ve been challenged and pushed to be my best. Same in the classroom. Along the way, so many people encouraged me and pushed me. To look back to where I was a freshman, there’s been so much growth and people to help along the way.
- Professors constantly push us even when we’re struggling. They believe in us. They know we’re capable of doing more. Friends do that, too. People want the best for others.
- The faith aspect. I grew up Catholic but wasn’t close to my faith. It’s not shoved down your throat, but it’s present and I was able to grow in that area.
- I’ve met amazing people. It’s an interesting culture – genuine and open. The community was attractive to me; I didn’t have that at my previous college. I have coffee with the chair of department and dinner at professors’ houses all the time. That’s how invested they are. I feel 100% prepared for whatever comes next.
Hope is ranked as the friendliest college in the US: “every person feels welcome, fully included, and will flourish in the way that they’re gifted by God to flourish,” said Hope’s President. On the day I visited, days after the election, there was a student-run silent demonstration in the pine grove to make a statement: No matter your background, your beliefs, your politics: you’re supported and welcome here.
It seems like students actually walk the walk here: they’re inclusive and support each other in whatever endeavors they choose to undertake. Some examples:
The basketball teams (women’s and men’s) led the nation in DIII attendance last year.
- I saw Jane Eyre: The Musical on opening night. Although well-supported by the community (and, I assume, parents/families), a huge part of the audience was comprised of students. Beyond that, I was highly impressed at the talent and the theater They bring in guest artists (actors and back-stage techies) to expose students to experts and benefit from their experience and talent. For this musical, the guest artist played Rochester, but all the others were students, including the musicians.
- The Pull, the oldest campus tradition in the US, is a massive tug-of-war across the Black River between freshmen and sophomores and coached by juniors and seniors. They dig trenches and build barricades so they can’t see the other team; the 18 pullers are helped by “cheerers” who can tell them what’s going on.
Hope makes the Top 10 of “Colleges where Students are Most Satisfied with College Choice,” tying with Stanford! Students come and persist until graduation. In fact, they have one of the highest in retention and graduation rates in the state, competing with UMich.
Although affiliated with the Reform Church, the largest self-identifying group is Catholic (20%). An optional 20-minute Chapel is held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. The building fits about 1/3 of the study body, and these events tend to be standing-room only. “It’s a fun atmosphere because the people who are there have chosen to be there. No one is ever forced – but no one is made to feel bad for not coming, either.”
The President said, “We encourage all students to explore Christianity and figure out their own faith. We don’t expect you to fit a mold, but we want you to seriously consider what it might offer you.” The two required religion classes don’t even need to be Christian based. There are “tons of opportunities to grow in your faith if you want it” such as mission trips and Bible studies. Several students on the panel mentioned that they liked the Christian aspect on campus.
The town of Holland is a wonderful bike- and pedestrian-friendly community. Several blocks of locally run stores and restaurants sit right off campus, and students can get some discounts in town. Hope owns about 30% of the apartments in town as housing for students (with the same expectations as dorm living such as being a “dry campus”). The white sand lakeshore beaches are a couple miles away; shuttles run there as well as to stores. The train station is 2 blocks from campus running to Chicago and Grand Rapids.
Students were out and about on campus, including on Saturday morning. Freshmen and most sophomores live on campus. Juniors and many seniors often move to one of the 80ish off-campus, Hope-owned houses (mostly upperclassmen live in these, but sometimes sophomores get in). “It’s a nice transitional period.”
About 20% of student join Greek Life. Rush is in the spring; “No one feels left out if they aren’t in it – it’s just another club,” said one student. Another said, “Our chapters don’t have the negative connotations that come with some of the bigger schools.”
“You get a personal hand-crafted education here. We’re focused on helping you discern what’s important. We want to make sure that your time here will help you consider all the options available to you and help you prepare for them.” Students’ favorite classes have been:
- Religion and Atrocity: “it explores hard issues that would be easy to sweep under the rug. It focused a lot on Holocaust. They talk about where god fits in: did he let it happen? Did he not? It was a deep thinking class and changed how I looked at things.”
- Social Work Interviewing: “I was so nervous for the class. Once I got into it, I loved it. We worked through scenarios, got strategies, etc. It was difficult but in a real situation, you know how you need to prepare.”
- French 3: “I took this freshman year, and once a week, a native speaker came in. It was cool to speak with her, learn about France. We did group projects, recite poems, etc. I didn’t get any of that in high school.”
- PE and Health for Elementary School teachers: “as a math person, that was different. I learned how to integrate movement in the classroom. Lots of speakers talking about dance in the classroom, and I can apply a lot of things I learned.”
- Marketing Management: “I love business and marketing. I’m involved in analytics and creative thinking, thinking outside the box. The director of the program talked to companies who want to hire the class. We have to dissect everything – branding, logo, everything. It was a real hands-on experience.”
Management is the biggest major (175/800 graduates this year were in the major). Nursing and Education are next in size. Engineering requires a comprehensive core before students specialize. “It’s hard to find a job that’s strictly in 1 discipline; you’re going to work with a lot of other types of engineers,” said the head of the department. “This isn’t the typical engineering department: people are engaged in other things. They’re athletes, in student government. People minor in languages, dance, etc. It’s a tight major. You have to plan carefully but it’s doable!” Seniors in the department complete a 2-semester design project from a needs statement all the way through to building the design.
Hope runs an off-site center in Philly with more than 800 options for internships and experiential education. There’s a New York City internship for theater: on- and off-stage (including the business side). Summer terms allow students to spend 3-4 weeks abroad (I spoke with 3 students who did this. They studied: Spanish in Avila; Northern Ireland and Scotland: Peace and Reconciliation; and Mental Health issues in Liverpool: “I want to do international social work, so this was a great opportunity.”) Some scholarships are available.
“Hope is not the most diverse campus, but they look it in the face and deal with it. At a Christian school, it’s easy to sweep things under the rug. Here, they want to talk and deal with it. I have a lot of respect for them not shying away from tough problems,” said one student. Another student said she was helping to get more people involved in the Latino Student Union: “It’s open to everyone, not just Latinos. It’s a great way to learn the cultures.” Other groups put on cultural talent shows or International Food Fair: “Eat all you want for $5. I never had African food until I came here. Best thing ever!”