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Faculty Profile: Janis Gibbs
Associate Professor of History
and Chairperson of the Department

Dr. Janis Gibbs believes that the department of history helps students to understand their own world more clearly by exposing them to different cultures and times than the ones to which they are accustomed. “History allows us to see the variety of ways in which human societies have dealt with challenges similar to those we face today,” she says.

Students will also find, she notes, a faculty who simultaneously reflect a variety of interests while also being united in their dedication to students. “The historians of Hope College have a broad range of interests, from ancient Rome to modern China, from imperial Britain to postcolonial Africa, from the American Civil War to women’s rights,” she says. “What unifies professors is our commitment to working with students, as teachers, mentors and colleagues in research and in learning.”

Accordingly, Dr. Gibbs, whose focus is on medieval and Reformation history, feels a deep sense of vocation in her work as an educator. “I teach at Hope because I am convinced that teaching is central to my calling,” she says. “I want our students to do the best work they can, and to pursue their own interests, wherever they lead.”

Dr. Gibbs believes that the department’s emphasis on helping students to explore their interests is a unique strength of the program. Through not only their class work but also internships and independent studies, students can pursue specific aspects of history in depth, including through original research on their own or with a faculty mentor.

“Hope offers students a place to grow. This is a college where there is incredible scope for students to chart their own courses,” she says. “The value of a Hope education lies in students’ willingness to explore their own interests and in the college’s commitment to making that possible, wherever students’ curiosity leads.”

The emphasis, she feels, serves Hope graduates well. “Hope history students have followed their interests all over the world, both in college study-abroad programs and in international careers,” she says. “Students go to graduate school, enter public service, work in journalism and business, go to seminary, become diplomats, and use their gifts in a wonderful variety of ways.”

However, she notes that the solid education and growth of students are not the only qualities of the college that attract students year after year. The same dedication demonstrated by the faculty reflects a broader community that is itself remarkable. When she discusses Hope with others, she says, “I always talk about the extraordinary people who are here. It’s the people who make the experience.”

This profile was written by Christopher M. Lewis, a 2009 Hope College graduate from Troy, Mich., for the 2009-2010 Hope College Catalog.

Hope People - Learn about the experiences of some of the people connected with Hope College.