posted July 27, 2009

Humanities and Social Sciences Emphasize Research

Faculty and student researchers in the humanities and social sciences at Hope have been devoting extra effort this summer to making a proven practice even better.

As students in the two divisions have been working on collaborative research projects with faculty mentors, the college has built in additional opportunities for them to learn not only through their own work but by connecting with each other and reflecting together on their experiences.  "We thought that it would be helpful for them to get together and share what they're doing as well as the process of their work," said Dr. Curtis Gruenler, associate professor of English, who has been coordinating the two-division effort.

Although the practice is most visible in the natural and applied sciences, faculty and students in the humanities and social sciences at Hope have been engaging in collaborative research projects for years.  Gruenler noted, however, that the researchers in the two divisions have tended to work in relative isolation and thus with little opportunity to gain inspiration or insights from what others were doing.

Going into this summer's research season, he said, the two divisions decided to take a page from the natural and applied sciences, where the research program has included seminars and other opportunities for researchers to share their work and simply socialize with peers having a similar experience.

Most formally and regularly, researchers in the humanities and social sciences have been participating in weekly luncheons all summer that have featured presentations on one or two of the ongoing projects, on topics ranging from medieval literature to the health of impoverished children in Africa.

"That has been a great help for me," said Haleigh Gokey, a senior from Mattawan who is conducting research in kinesiology - focused on use of the Wii as a wellness tool among elderly populations--with Dr. Maureen Odlund Dunn.  "I have learned more about different ways of doing research and my eyes have been opened to different topics, and that has led me to make a list of topics to 'research' on my own, just to broaden my horizon and understand more of the world around me."

Given the divisions' emphasis on considering the research activity as a broader learning experience, the luncheons have been supported by the CrossRoads Project.  "The thinking is that doing summer research is part of a process of vocational discernment for the students," Gruenler said.

Similarly, CrossRoads also supported an afternoon discussion of the article "Forty Years Later" by Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff, who is the Noah Porter Professor of Philosophical Theology Emeritus at Yale University, which was published in the April 2009 issue of the Reformed journal "Perspectives" and examined the pleasure of understanding as a key part of the academic vocation.

The activities have also included less formal opportunities for students to mix and relate concerning their research experience, ranging from some choosing to live together in campus housing for the duration of the summer, to sharing work space in the Van Wylen Library, to joining in the weekly ice cream socials organized by the division of the natural and applied sciences.

The projects, with their faculty mentors and student researchers, have been:

"Challenging Modernist Ideals: G.K. Chesterton as Christian Public Intellectual," Marc Baer, history, with Jon Andreas VanDenend;

"The Texture of Tanakh: A Functional Grammar of Biblical Hebrew Discourse," Barry Bandstra, religion, with Stephen Shaffer;

"Women's Movements, State Building, and Civil Society in Sub-Saharan Africa," Virginia Beard, political science, with Stephanie Bogema;

"Special Education Reading Programs in the Elementary School," Nancy Cook, education, with Cassie Sneller;

"Effect of 'Wii FitTM' balance training on postural sway in elderly women," Maureen Dunn, kinesiology, with Haleigh Gokey;

"Piers Plowman and Cognitive Literary Theory," Curtis Gruenler, English, with Peter Klecynski;

"Migrants, Immigrants, and Tulipanes: West Michigan Latino History," Jonathan Hagood, history, with James Richardson;

"Washington Honor Semester," Jack Holmes, political science, with Nate Bult; and "Ambivalent America," Jack Holmes with Stewart Elzinga;

"Sexual Christian Ethics," Steve Hoogerwerf, religion, with Ashley Carter;

"Theopolitics: Christ, Justice and the Civil Community," Mark Husbands, religion, with Jeffrey Skaff;

"Measuring Holland: Setting the Stage for Social Reform," Donald Luidens, sociology, with Meghann Deering and Timothy Haines;

"Human and Divine Freedom," Jack Mulder, philosophy, with Michael Bertrand;

"Learning to Teach in a Time of Reform: How One Beginning Teacher Finds His Way," Laura Pardo, education, with Heather Field, Gina Guzdziol and Allison Nees;

"To Unify Our Splendid Forces: The Fight to Organize American Catholic Manhood, 1919-1925," Jeanne Petit, history, with Jacob Douma;

"Is The Good Book Good Enough? Perspectives on Evangelical Public Policy," David Ryden, political science, with Kenneth Bauman;

"Creative Writing Project: Novel in Progress," Heather Sellers, English, with Ian Coburn;

"Through the Eyes of Orphans: Milk and Medicine Program Evaluation," Deb Sturtevant, social work, with Bethany Braaksma;

"Toward a Pro-Door Politics: Do Political Parties Supported by the Poor Reduce Poverty?," Joel Toppen, political science, with Dustin Miller;

"Perception and Psychoacoustics," Sonja Trent-Brown, psychology, with Joline Dreyer, Emma Porter, Stephanie Smith, Lindsay Tracy and Kyle Woodworth;

"Psychological and Injury Profiles of Collegiate Athletes," Scott VanderStoep, psychology, and Kirk Brumels, kinesiology, with Philip Heyboer."