Archived Voice Articles

Education that transforms

By Dr. Carl E. Zylstra

I want to be a different person four years from now than I am today.” What a great answer that would be to the question I often pose to high school students, “What do you want out of your college education?” It would be marvelous to hear, “I want to be transformed from who I am today into a wise, mature, and wellequipped servant of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

I do sometimes get responses that are close. “I want to be a nurse and go overseas and help the neediest people in the world.” “I want to take over my parents’ business and keep providing great jobs for the people who work for them.” “I want to be a minister because I know there are a lot of people who need the gospel.” Or something like that. But at least to my recollection, I’ve never had high school students say that their goal in college is to experience an education that transforms them as a child of God.

Yet a truly transforming education is the goal of Dordt College, and it shows up in a number of ways. We believe that the residential environment where students spend ninety percent of the week is essential to their education, just as is the ten percent of the week that is spent within the classroom or lab. We promote a vigorous cocurricular program that unfolds in theatres, gymnasiums, concert halls, and ice arenas. In the Dordt College perspective, education is a 24/7 effort. Without four years of such broad experiences, a Dordt College diploma just wouldn’t mean as much. That kind of education takes not only effort, it takes time. Education that transforms an individual nurtures growth in a way that can’t be accelerated any more than a nervous twelveyear- old can speed up the growth he is anticipating but seems frustratingly slow to arrive.

Another way in which a Dordt College education transforms is in the newly adopted Core Curriculum, described in more detail elsewhere in this issue. Education that transforms is foundationally the same for all students, whether they are engineering, social work, pre-law, history majors—or whatever course of study they are pursuing. It is our conviction that there really is a core to all effective post high school education, and we are committed to providing it. That conviction also is embodied in our inter-disciplinary approach to the core curriculum. A graduate with a degree in graphic design should know a lot more than just how to lay out an attractive, effective poster. That graduate also should have been exposed to a transforming education that will enable her to know more about God’s world, to understand that world and her place in it in the light of God’s Word, and to be eager and committed to doing what she can to use the skills she has attained to serve the coming of the redeeming kingdom of Jesus Christ wherever she may be called to be in the years ahead. The same ought to be true for English majors, exercise science majors, youth ministry majors, or whatever major a student finally settles on. Our faculty have worked long and hard to examine what foundation will be helpful for students who want the type of biblically-based, Christ-centered education that a Dordt College diploma certifies. Our new core curriculum is the result.

I won’t be so presumptuous as to claim that receiving a Dordt College diploma automatically certifies that its holder has become a sincere, mature Christ follower, eager to serve wherever God leads. No college can make that sort of guarantee.

But we can promise that we have a curriculum and standards for academic progress that require every student to participate in an educational experience that has been designed to enhance personal and transformative growth in knowledge and understanding. We can promise that we have assembled the very best faculty that we can find to mentor and instruct our students as they pass through that process. Whether their educational experience ultimately results in the personal growth and transformation for which it is designed, we will have to leave in the hands of the Lord.

Whether or not incoming students ask for it, our goal remains offering an education that transforms. And our promise to each new student who enrolls is that we will do our best to see that, with God’s blessing, he can experience an education that will shape him for a lifetime of becoming more and more the servant Christ has created and redeemed him to be.