The Voice: Summer 2003

The Voice

Dutch professor spends semester teaching history

By: Sally Jongsma

Dr. Roel Kuiper says he’s returning to Holland with increased fluency in English and a deep appreciation for the dedicated community of Christians at Dordt College. As the semester drew to a close, he was thankful for the adventure and the opportunity he and his family had to spend the sem-ester in the United States at Dordt.

“It’s a precious thing to preserve and build on the Reformed heritage,” he says. “Even after I’m back in the Netherlands I’ll be glad that Dordt College is here and influencing and forming people’s lives.”

Kuiper, who holds a teaching chair in Reformational philosophy at Erasmus University and is also helping set up a more foundational program in social work at the Zwolle Gereformeerde Hogeschool, took a semester’s leave to fill Dr. Keith Sewell’s position while Sewell was on study leave.

“We’ve always wanted to go abroad for a while with our family and work in another community of Christian scholars,” Kuiper says. His wife also took a leave from her position on the city council in the city in which they live.

“It’s important to be in touch with an international family of Christian scholars,” he says, adding that he has already talked with people in Dordt’s social work department about developing cooperative efforts with Zwolle. He hopes that future cooperation between Reformed scholars here and in the Netherlands will increase. Away from other church and committee obligations, he also found time to write an article on social philosophy this semester.

Kuiper appreciates the fact that he’s been able to experience a different approach to education. The campus system was unfamiliar to him. In the Netherlands, students rent flats in the city rather than living in a close community on campus. He feels that he came to know his students this semester better than he does his students in the Netherlands.

Expectations are different here, he says. Students here come and talk to you when they have questions. They look for guidance and expect the professor to give it to them. They’re hard working and respectful. Meeting with classes three times a week instead of once a week creates more of a community atmosphere. He plans to take some of what he’s learned back with him.

“My experiences with students have been very positive,” he says.

He also finds American students worry too much about grades. In fact, he’s told them, “This is not for a grade, this is for you to know.” Students in the Netherlands are often more cynical and critical, but they debate and discuss more than the students he’s taught here, he says.

“Teaching in English has helped me become more fluent in the language,” he acknowledges. It also made his preparations take more time, since he felt he had to write out his lectures first to make sure he used the best words to communicate what he wanted to say. As the semester went on, that too became easier.

“Teaching in English is coming in the Netherlands,” he says. His semester here has helped prepare him for that, too.