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Distinguished Scholars look back at their education

Andrew Hoeksema, Katie Kroese, Matt Bakker, Kyle Van Arendonk, and Don Stenberg learned much, but also gave much during their college years:  leadership in the classroom, clubs, student forum, committees, and athletics.

Andrew Hoeksema, Katie Kroese, Matt Bakker, Kyle Van Arendonk, and Don Stenberg learned much, but also gave much during their college years: leadership in the classroom, clubs, student forum, committees, and athletics.

Asked to describe the greatest strength of their education at Dordt College, five seniors in five different majors from five different communities in North America all responded similarly. They believe that they have been challenged to think in ways they did not anticipate when they entered college.

The students began their studies at Dordt College four years ago as recipients of the 2000 Distinguished Scholar Awards. Reflecting on their education a month before graduation, they were appreciative of the Christian worldview they've developed through their studies and through mentoring by professors.

Don Stenberg, an engineering major from Lincoln, Nebraska, cited "digging into Christian philosophy" as one of the most significant parts of his education. He learned, he says, that being a good engineer is much more than being good at mathematics and physics. Serving God as an engineer means understanding that God's Word applies to the whole creation and then learning what that means.

Katie Kroese, a business major from Hull, Iowa, says she's been taken beyond her discipline to see the world more "holistically." It's not just about balancing a balance sheet, she says, it's about learning how to think through issues, apply what she's learned, and want to learn more. "College has been a maturing experience that's changed my view of the world," Kroese sums up.

"Learning is for service," says Andrew Hoeksema, a philosophy and Spanish major from San Diego, California, summing up what he's learned in a nutshell. He values the way his courses have given him the tools to try to put that vision into practice.

Matt Bakker, an environmental studies major from Winnipeg, Manitoba, says that the Christian perspective out of which he's been taught has been more intentional than he ever experienced before. The focus on integrating what he's learned from one discipline to another has given him a better understanding of the world and his place in it.

For Kyle Van Arendonk, a pre-med exercise science major from Pella, Iowa, taking courses like political studies and Gen 300 and going on PLIA (spring break service projects) will shape the way he thinks about his role as a medical doctor. Political studies and Gen 300 challenged him to wrestle with social and political issues from a Christian perspective, and seeing poverty face-to-face on PLIA has made him consider giving time to working in poor areas of the world.

For these students, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will always be associated with their college years. That event along with service experiences, off-campus programs in other countries, and issue-oriented courses like Gen 300 have helped them put the more specialized courses in their majors in context, the students say. All of them are excited about their majors and the career opportunities they open up, and they feel confident about the skills and knowledge they've developed in those courses. As good students, they all expected to be well prepared in their major. So in reflecting on their college years they tended to focus on the context of their studies.

Bakker points to two off-campus programs that were formative for him: a summer at Au Sable Institute for Environmental Studies and an environmentally-focused semester in Belize. Waking up to snow capped mountain peaks and exploring coral reefs and the jungle gave him a heightened awareness of the creation as God's world and has shaped his goals and his understanding of the environment.

"The strength of a liberal arts education is its general education courses," says Hoeksema, who appreciates the variety of issues he was exposed to in classes such as Western Civilization, Introduction to Philosophy, Perspectives in Biblical Theology, introductory environmental studies courses, and Gen 300: Calling, Task and Culture. He also is appreciative of electives such as Advanced Expository Writing and the History of Calvinism.

Unsolicited, Gen 300 comes up several times. "It's a wonderful course to prepare us for life," says Kroese. "We learn to look at issues, develop an understanding of what they involve, and take a stand." She and others in the group appreciate the fact that professors push them to see points of view they may not be familiar or even comfortable with. They also appreciate that professors speak boldly on issues and challenge students to understand that although few problems have simple solutions or answers, they must wrestle with them as Christians and take a stand.

Hoeksema, who thinks Gen 300 is a good capstone course, would like to see more interdisciplinary issues like those currently addressed in the course-biotechnology, poverty, and gender-come up earlier in the curriculum. He agrees, though, that first-year students may be less interested in or less capable of seeing the significance of these and other issues compared to seniors.

Stenberg too appreciates the opportunities to wrestle with cultural dilemmas. "It's good to be presented with ideas and have opportunities to share your ideas," he says. "It's also important for students to have the freedom to disagree with their professors." Sometimes that is difficult for students. He says he has grown in that ability, coming to Dordt College as a very shy person but growing in confidence and leadership abilities.

Van Arendonk points out the lifelong value of friendships forged in college-friendships he will miss but which he hopes will last for a lifetime.

For the most part, the five seniors say they wouldn't do anything different if they had to do college over again.

"I regret that I didn't have more time to hang out without studying," says Stenberg, as the semester and his college days near the end.

"I try to live without regrets," says Bakker, who consciously tried to explore things he wasn't convinced he could do. He signed up for voice lessons, never having sung. He sang in Chorale for four semesters and loved it. He auditioned for a play and ended up getting a commendation from the reviewer for his performance.

All five are ready go on from here. Stenberg plans to spend a year working with his wife Tiffany, an ag major, at an orphanage in Bolivia, teaching children how to farm. Eventually he plans to go to graduate school in nuclear engineering. Kroese will teach English in China next year while she earns her MBA. Van Arendonk begins medical school at the University of Iowa. Bakker is moving to New York state and will look for a job with a small non-profit environmental organization. Hoeksema, who wants to work in an organization combining ministry, politics, and community service, will serve as the advertising intern for Sojourners Magazine next year.

Says Bakker, "I'm excited to be able to live more deliberately, discovering how to live well."

"The time went by fast," concludes Kroese. "It's interesting to see where our education has brought us."

Don Stenberg

I grew up going to public school and an evangelical church. Those were good experiences, but when I got to Dordt I didn't see any connection between my faith and school work or engineering. Over my time here, however, I learned some very good reasons for a Christian to develop technology and how to do it in a more Christian way. I expect that this knowledge will make me a better engineer because I will not only have technical training, but I will also have an understanding of how everything fits together.

Andrew Hoeksema

During my four years here at Dordt I learned that education is not to be pursued merely for the sake of education. I have been trained to take what I have learned in and around the classroom-from the most abstract to the most tangible-and consider how I might better serve God and love my neighbor. I pray that this same principle of living a life directed by love and service of others for God's glory will continue to guide me in the coming years as I seek to be active in church-based community renewal and political activity.

In my philosophy classes, I appreciated how the professors challenged us to profoundly examine a wide variety of patterns of thought and hold them up to the light of scripture. The setting of small classes fostered much personal reflection on and engagement with every topic that we studied. I was given the chance to dig deeper into my own reformed philosophical presuppositions and sharpen my understanding.

Matt Bakker

Over the past few years, I have seen a tremendous growth in my willingness and desire to struggle with the issues of our day-a growth not only in the depth, but also in the scope of my concern. I was very conscious of environmental problems prior to coming to Dordt, but have come to see that my attention may not stop there. Issues of poverty and justice are on my mind as never before. Strangely though, realizing the complexity of the world and of its ailments has not crushed my hope. Rather, it has excited me to discover how I might live well in the place I find myself. My experiences at Dordt have instilled in me a deep longing for shalom, which I have no doubt will motivate me towards more energetic kingdom service.

Environmental studies is a wonderfully comprehensive field; I can hardly think of a contemporary issue that doesn't have some environmental component or connection. The multidisciplinary approach taken by Dordt's environmental studies department demonstrates a real desire to engage tough questions and not to settle for easy answers. This program emphasizes that responding faithfully to environmental problems requires knowledge in many areas. One has to have a firm understanding of how the world works, but also of how political and economic systems function, for example.

Katie Kroese

Through both academics and community, Dordt has challenged me to think through every one of my decisions and actions. Why am I doing this, and whom is it affecting? One of the major themes on campus is striving for a truly Christ-like worldview. In order to act this out, Christians need to be aware of all of the activities and situations around them and throughout the world. As we know that God is sovereign over every square inch of creation, we need to care for and develop even the smallest details to truly fulfill his purpose for our lives. In all aspects of life I need to seek God's direction by staying informed on issues and developing my relationships with others.

My accounting and overall business education at Dordt College has equipped me with the knowledge to effectively function in business. However, my classes, professors, and peers have taught me far more than business functions. Through my studies I have learned how to best represent Christ in all aspects of business. We examined ethics of different business situations and possibilities. I appreciated the perspective from which the professors teach, as I learn from their experiences and Christian backgrounds. I know that at a secular institution I could learn just as much about business, but at Dordt I have learned how to fulfill our calling as Christians to fill the earth and subdue it while shining as Christ's light.

Kyle Van Arendonk

At Dordt I focused on preparation for medical school, but I also gained a much broader perspective that included many topics and ideas outside my area of emphasis. This broad education will be very beneficial to me as I leave Dordt and encounter the many important issues that Christians face in society today. This broader focus will inevitably make me a better physician as well.

My exercise science major allowed me to combine my interests in sports medicine and the broader field of science. The pre-med program at Dordt has both prepared me well for medical school and given me a unique, Christian perspective on the human body that I can take with me as I enter the field of medicine.