A few ideas about the off-campus program

Categories:Ideas, Space
Rob Vander Giessen-Reitsma

One of the big ideas for the space that results from the Imagining Space campaign is an off-campus program for college students. In the course of shared meals, grocery trips, concerts and other activities with our student friends at Calvin College, we’ve come to realize the value of simply doing life together as a means of collaboratively learning what a richly formed, Kingdom-oriented life might look like. Building on these experiences, we’d like to cultivate a space in which inquisitive students can have these kinds of formative encounters with each other and with mentors and teachers.

While we’ve spent a lot of time brainstorming about this program, we haven’t fully developed a specific plan; in part, this is because the program will look different depending on the space we’re able to secure for it. Assuming, though, that we’ll be able to purchase Huss School, here are a few ideas for what that program might look like:

  • The second floor of Huss would be a residential space with a variety of housing options, from dormitories to apartments. Students in the program would stay in the dorms and visiting faculty (with, perhaps, their families) would occupy the apartments.
  • Students and faculty would share a communal kitchen and eating area; in addition to private living space, there would also be a shared living room. In this way, learning can extend beyond classrooms to the informal conversations that happen over meals or after watching a film together. This kind of student-teacher interaction will be a hallmark of the program.
  • The curriculum will focus on exploring deep faith commitments and how these commitments might look in various areas of life. The program will seek to connect piety (worship, prayer, spiritual disciplines) with cultural engagement, as these are often compartmentalized and therefore incomplete.
  • The semester will be broken into 2- or 3-week long intensive units, with each unit exploring a different aspect of biblical and/or cultural analysis. For example, units may include issues of race and power, contemplative practices, community development principles, local and global peacemaking initiatives, and many others.
  • Each student will also intern during the semester at a local organization, church or business. Ideally, of course, this placement would be tied to the student’s interest. Assessment and evaluation of their intern experiences will be incorporated into classroom learning.
  • Some of the opportunities for internships might include working with a community partner to tutor grade school children, tending to the community garden with neighbors, working in a downtown store, and many others.

There will be many more hours of brainstorming and visioning ahead for an off-campus program, but hopefully the list above helps you envision the potential program a little better. If you have any questions or ideas, please post them below!