Dordt College News

Students head to the cities

August 17, 2011

Remember those school field trips?

They’re still alive and well—in college, too. Every year students travel with their professors to a variety of places. English students go to Shakespeare festivals or visit the home of Willa Cather, biology students visit prairies and ponds.

Several majors and courses offer trips that allow students to see their major in action. Although technology has brought the world to our doorstep, some things are still better seen close up.

This year business majors, engineers, communication majors, and students in the Core arts course, among others, traveled to places like Minneapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, and Omaha. The business, communication, and engineering majors primarily toured national and international businesses and organizations that do work they hope to do some day.  The arts students had an opportunity to see and experience performances by artists that are among the best in the world.

Core 160

“Looking at a digital image of an art work can still make you weep or smile, but it is much different than experiencing it in person,” says Art Professor Matthew Drissell. “It’s like buying a CD versus playing an instrument.”

Drissell notes that even though students have seen many images painted by Rembrandt, engaging a painting hanging directly in front of them is an exciting and surprising experience for many students. They learn more concretely that art is more than just an image on a screen when they see the work of world famous artists.

Arts students from the Core 160 Introduction to the Arts course who went to Minneapolis visited both the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Walker Art Center sculpture garden.

“Core 160 gives me one shot at shaping students’ understanding of art as exciting, compelling, and relevant,” says Drissell. The Minneapolis trip helps do that.

Core 160 students who go on the art trip experience a whirlwind weekend of art performances. This year, in addition to art museums, they attended the George Bernard Shaw play “Arms and the Man” at the Guthrie Theater and a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert of music by Janacek, Mozart, and Shostakovich.

“Core 160 introduces students to art of various kinds to encourage them to see how integral creative work is to God’s creation,” says Theatre Arts Professor Simon du Toit. He tries to give his students an overarching view of how faith—of various kinds—is at work in art so that they can be discerning consumers of art.

“Seeing art as practiced by some of the best actors in the world can help students see that it is a worthwhile calling and see the results of disciplined practice and its potential to bear fruit for Christ’s kingdom,” du Toit adds.

Music Professor Karen De Mol says that being immersed in great art for a whole weekend is an amazing opportunity for students—especially non art majors. She loves the conversations that spring up as a result. Students, she says, like to talk about what they’ve learned to recognize about rhythm, melody, and more.

Film is also part of Core 160 but is not part of the weekend.

“We used to see a film on the trip, too,” says English Professor Robert De Smith, but film isn’t much different in a dark room in Sioux Center than it is in a dark theater in Minneapolis. And it means students and faculty have one less event to fit in to a busy schedule. That doesn’t make the trip less valuable for film buffs, though.

“The bus trip gives faculty and students an opportunity to be in conversation with each other in a different setting,” says De Smith. On the last trip, he got into a long conversation about the history of the English language with a student. Simply being engaged with the arts intensively leads to conversations among students and between students and faculty.

“Before I took CORE 160, I thought of the arts as being separate dimensions of my life, as entertainment or something to participate in outside of day-to-day life,” says Sonya Kuiper, a nursing major from Luverne, Minnesota. “After taking the music sub-course with Dr. DeMol, I realized the impact of music in my everyday life, wrestled with the idea of what makes music Christian, and more clearly understood my role with music in the church.

“In the theatre sub-course, I learned that drama is not something separate from my daily life. Neither is it just entertainment. Dr. du Toit illustrated the value of drama and explained that it affects our day-to-day lives subliminally, and this in turn affects our actions. With this in mind, I realized the need to be more discerning when consuming theatre, or any of the arts for that matter.

“If I were to describe the weekend, I would say it’s a whirlwind of really great art, and an opportunity you don’t want to miss. Go!” says Kuiper.


Engineering students parted ways on January 26-28. Members of the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) traveled to Omaha and Kansas City, while student members of IEEE (the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology) went to Cedar Rapids and Chicago.

Twenty-six students and two engineering professors visited Morrissey Engineering in Omaha and then drove to Kansas City to tour a cooling tower test facility operated by SPX Cooling Technologies. The next day, the group visited Black and Veatch, hosted by two Dordt engineering alumni who work there.  Later that morning, the group visited with engineers at the consulting firm of Walter P. Moore and then had an afternoon tour of the Harley Davidson assembly plant.  

“This trip helps us get an idea about what the future holds for us,” says Stephen Pederson. “We spend a lot of time learning theories and equations but rarely get to see how they are used. During the tours, the guides mentioned heat transfer or stress loading values that they had to find, and it was great because we had learned that material already.” 

Pederson and his classmates saw first-hand how broad the field of engineering is and how limitless the possibilities are if they want to try something new. As the student organizer for the trip, he’s convinced the trip is an important tradition not only because he gives ideas about possible careers, but because it gives them contacts for internships and jobs.

“It also gives underclassmen opportunities to talk to and learn from upperclassmen,” he says.

The highlight for Pederson was the tour of SPX Technology’s Development center. They build cooling towers of all sizes and their development center is located in an old mine, almost 100 feet underground. 

“We got see a lot of cool products and learn a great deal about the work that goes into designing and prototyping a new product,” he says.

Another 18 engineers and two professors stopped off in Cedar Rapids on their way to Chicago, visiting with Dordt alumnus Brent Disselkoen at Rockwell Collins. Rockwell Collins makes avionics equipment for commercial aircraft.  When the students toured their extensive set of buildings, they got a feeling for the company’s ability to manufacture a product from integrated circuit fabrication to final testing in Rockwell Collins-built Boeing cockpit simulator. “I got the opportunity to land a commercial airliner in the simulator using Rockwell Collins avionics,” says senior Justin Krosschell, a senior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “It was an exhilarating experience.”

In Chicago they toured a Caterpillar manufacturing facility and the Fermi National Laboratory. The stop at Fermilab was included because the trip was a joint venture of electrical engineering and physics clubs. At Fermilab they met with a docent who described different experiments being conducted and explained some of the history of the laboratory. She also talked about the changing roles of Fermilab because of the new detectors that are being used at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Krosschell describes the trip as a “very positive experience.”

Business trip to St. Louis

Dordt business students have opportunities to see, intern at, and work with small and medium-sized businesses—including businesses that have a significant international presence. But to see large international organizations like Boeing and Monsanto, you need to go to a large metropolitan area, says Business Club advisor Art Attema.

So they did. Fifty-five business students and four professors took a bus to St. Louis this spring to visit Boeing, Monsanto, Anheuser-Busch, Smurfit-Stone, and Energizer.

“Working for a huge international business is very different from working for a small company,” says Attema. He believes that listening to Dordt alumni working in these companies, human resource representatives, or retired employees as they give company tours helps Dordt business students see a different career path than they might otherwise consider. It also helps them see something of a big company’s value system as they think about where they might like to work someday.

One thing faculty and students noticed was the amount of regulation on businesses such as Boeing and Monsanto. Unlike smaller companies, they cannot simply market and produce as they wish. They also noticed the increasing speed at which innovation and development is occurring at these immense companies.

“Such experiences help them see how they might or might not be a good fit with the value system of a company,” says Attema. On their trip this spring business students heard several people at these companies talk about the importance of values and building relationships and trust in making sales.

“It was good to hear people who aren’t Christians say that values are important and what they look for.” Sitting in the bus or over dinner or at their hotel gives unique opportunities to talk about what they’ve seen—from issues of genetic manipulation at Monsanto to recycling at Smurfit Stone.

The highlight of the trip for Michael Gorter, a junior from Ridgewood, New Jersey, was a question-and-answer time with finance professionals at Boeing. A finance and accounting major, he found the descriptions of their work interesting and appealing.

“Seeing the concepts we learn in class being used on a practical level provides an incentive to continue studying hard because we see how these seemingly abstract principles are actually relevant,” he says.

“The trip reaffirmed my choice to pursue a degree in business,” says Sam Hart, a junior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For him a highlight of the trip was also the opportunity to build relationships both with fellow business majors and with the professors. “We shared quite a few laughs with the profs, whether on the bus or in the hotel.”  

“I hope that in the next decade or two Dordt College Business Club students will come to my city for an alumni lunch and that I can share my experiences with the next generation of business leaders.”


What is Core 160?

All students take Core 160 at some point in their Dordt College career. The course is divided into four sections, each offered as a half-semester course. Students get a taste of two arts by taking two of the options, either music or art one half of the semester and either theater or film the other.
Four mass classes focus on a particular theme, for example how children have been portrayed in art or what kitsch is.

From one student's perspective . . .

Kelly Zatlin

This spring’s Communication Club field trip was nothing short of entertaining and educational.

On Friday, April 1, eight Dordt students, along with Professors Bruce Kuiper and Mark Volkers, piled into a van and headed to Minneapolis. Although leaving at 5 a.m. was not everyone’s cup of tea, it was definitely worth the four-hour drive to the “Mini-apple.”

Of all the places we visited, Weber Shandwick, a prominent communication agency that works with organizations around the world, was my favorite. The staff was welcoming, the office building was fun, yet classy, and I was impressed by the work the organization did (some of which included public relations work for the U.S. Army and American Girl).

Several Weber Shandwick interns gave us advice about internships and networking, two things we were told are crucial to getting a job anywhere in today’s world.

I could feel the professionalism of Padilla Speer Beardsley as we entered the building. The staff brought us into a large conference room with huge windows overlooking the Mississippi River and much of downtown Minneapolis.

I’d work at Padilla just for the view, especially since they put people with lower positions by the windows.

We learned a great deal about Padilla and also learned how to best go about landing a job in public relations.

Our last stop of the day, at agency Space 150, was a memorable one.

Their motto “destroy convention, create demand” sums up the company. You walk through a large, and I mean LARGE, black door into one large room filled with modern-looking desks and the newest technology. People sit at their desks on work-out balls, dogs are roaming around, employees are playing ping-pong, and beer is being served at 3 in the afternoon.

Every 150 days, the agency changes everything about their look; they change their logo, their website, and they update all their technology to make sure they have the latest and best. It was the most interesting communication organization I have encountered.

We finished off the day with dinner at the Midtown Global Market, a hilarious improvisation show called Comedy Sportz at Calhoun Square, and a “restful” night at the Travelodge motel. We slipped in a Saturday morning tour of the Walker Sculpture Garden and a little shopping at the famous (or in Professor Kuiper’s opinion, infamous) Mall of America before heading back to Dordt.

The trip was a great success! We learned so much about professions in the field of communication and about the importance of internships and networking. Having fun along the way was an extra plus!

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