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Board goes back to school

By Sally Jongsma

On Friday, October 21, students weren’t the only ones heading to class at 8:00 a.m. Board of trustees members on campus for their annual fall board meeting fell in line along the walkways, heading for their classrooms.

The number of classes meeting at 8:00 a.m. is not as large as later in the morning. More natural sciences than social sciences courses meet, and with the exception of one Dutch class no humanities courses meet. Nevertheless, Board President Rev. Calvin Hoogendoorn felt it would be valuable to have board members see what goes on in the classroom.

Senior business students had the opportunity to learn from the expertise of board members when they visited  classes as part of the board meeting agenda in October.

Senior business students had the opportunity to learn from the expertise of board members when they visited classes as part of the board meeting agenda in October.

“The intention was to show appreciation, affirm what professors are doing, and be better advocates for the college when board members go back into their communities,” Hoogendoorn said.

“It was a great experience and a lot of fun,” said board member Kevin Wolterstorff (’81) about Dr. Matt Dressler’s “Statics and Strength of Materials” class. “I learned how stress on various materials is calculated, graphed, and used in manufacturing or engineering projects. . . . I wish I could go to the next class to follow the concept in greater depth. The professor was engaging and drew the class into discussion and thoughtful participation. As a banker I could only sit and listen. Although the stress curve looked exactly like an interest rate yield curve, from that point it was all uncharted territory for me. What a great experience!”

Arnold Veldkamp, Jr., attended calculus class because his father taught it for many years—and the current professor was just a young neighborhood boy when he attended Dordt.

“Professor Faber made the subject matter come alive by using calculus to explain the existence and location of rainbows. I enjoyed the class very much.”

Alvin Kooiman attended Dr. Duane Bajema’s “Marketing of Agricultural Products” class because of his interest in the subject and because of its importance for farmers.

“Excellent,” he says of the class. “It dealt directly with the struggles that many farmers have with marketing their crops. I appreciated how Mr. Bajema asked each of the students what they would have done with the crop that Dordt had marketed the day before—a very practical question and one that most of them will face many times throughout the year if they are involved with agriculture.”

“I loved the experience,” says Dan Kuiper (’82).  “It brought back some great college memories. Once again it reinforced to me the quality professors we have at Dordt College. It also helped me see a little better where the ‘rubber meets the road.’

Personal contact between all members of the college family builds better relationships and helps us all face the challenges of today’s education environment.”

Faculty, too, appreciated having board members visit. Education Professor Ed Starkenburg said, “They were a blessing to the class!  Since it’s an 8:00 a.m. class, it is sometimes tough for students to stay wide awake and engaged for the full hour. But the presence of board members seemed to inspire them to the point that one student said we had the best discussion of the semester. Board member Randy Kroll helped us understand more fully the public’s expectations of professionals in our society.  His contribution was a major boost to the discussion.”

Dr. Leen van Beek enjoyed having Rev. Carl Klompien and Anthony Begay in his classroom. Klompien knows a bit of Dutch and exchanged phrases with students, and Begay taught the class a few standard greetings in Navaho.

Business Professor John Visser thinks it is important for board members to actually see what is going on in the classroom, but he says they also verify for students that what is going on in the classroom is relevant to life outside of Dordt. His business senior seminar that day featured a debate on the topic “Students should receive vouchers for use in private (for-profit and not-for-profit) or public schools.” Students discussed the topic with board member and former Iowa legislator Ken Veenstra, who has worked on educational choice issues in state politics.

Jim Schippers (’80), whose son Andy was a member of the class, also attended and, after seeing both apathy and passion in students in the class, said, “I would love to retake many of those classes and soak it all in. I wanted to say to some of the non-involved students, ‘Hey sit up, get involved, speak up, ask questions, make comments. This is neat stuff.’” But Schippers admits that he probably had some classes where he was not involved and acknowledges that hindsight and experience are powerful motivators.

Dr. Chris Goedhart admits to checking the electronic technology an extra time before class to make sure it would work smoothly and to adding some visuals to his powerpoint to help his board visitors put the topic in context.

“Before class I talked briefly with one of the board members. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to talk with any of the board members after the class was over, and I would have enjoyed that. I think there is a role for board members, whether of a corporation or of a college to get a sense of what is happening in the trenches.

To make the experience more valuable for both board and faculty members, I think an opportunity for interaction should exist. Board members should not only see us put on our best ‘dog and pony show’ but should have a chance to find out about the joys and concerns of our work.”

Ruth Verhoef (’71) made a point of speaking with both students and the professor she visited. “Coming in as a board member from California and not having been on Dordt’s campus for over four years, it was a joy to be able to connect with my college again. The meal with the Student Forum members . . . allows board members to gain a glimpse of the aims of Dordt College through the lives and words of students. That and the classroom visit were the highlights for me. I realize that a board meeting is not meant to entertain or appease the desires of its members; however, building into the schedule the opportunity to meet with student leaders and attend a class allows board members to put 'emotion’ and a ‘face’ on the task at hand.”

Starkenburg sums up: “Students get to interact with board members and see that they are very interested in education at Dordt and in the faculty and students. Board members get to see what students do, what faculty do, how their decisions affect what goes on in classrooms across campus.  Overall, it brings together three very important players in the game of education so they all better understand and appreciate each others’ work.”