Funded Grand Challenges Proposals

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grand Challenges Initiative of Hope College is pleased to announce the first two rounds of recipients of grants to develop new and revised courses.

Thirty faculty members from 14 different departments and every division of the college will receive more than $230,000 for 10 Grand Challenges projects.

Awarded Spring 2017

Transforming Lives and Communities through Art
Tori Pelz (Art), TEMPLE SMITH (Sociology), DEBORAH STURTEVANT (Social Work)

Students in three courses — Art 114: Basic Drawing, Sociology 101: Introduction to Sociology and Social Work 401: Social Interventions III (Communities and Organizations) — will explore together how community-based art initiatives serve as a platform to address economic disparity. Sociological theories of economic vulnerability that generate cyclic economic disadvantage will sharpen the development and consumption of art. Drawing students will work alongside community members of economically vulnerable populations to foster social awareness, public engagement and reflection. Students of social work will examine practices that aim to remedy disadvantage through generating resources at the micro, mezzo and macro levels and to influence planning and policies. Courses are planned for fall 2017.

Engaging Africa and its Diaspora: Recognizing Power, Pursuing Reconciliation
Virginia Parish Beard (Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies), KENDRA R. PARKER (English, Women’s and Gender Studies)

Two linked courses offered in spring 2018 — Political Science 305: African Politics and Interdisciplinary Studies 172: Cultural Heritage II (“Africana Womanism: Origins, Legacies”) — will study Africa’s histories and the contemporary political, economic and cultural realities of Africa and the African diaspora. Recognizing how power contributes to the systematic exploitation, oppression and dehumanization that African peoples experience will give students a better understanding of the challenges to restorative reconciliation faced by Africana people around the world, at both local and national levels. Understanding imperialism, colonization, political instability, economic uncertainty and the spread of infectious diseases (among other oppressions) will help students better understand how such challenges to human flourishing are encountered by people around the world and in their local communities. Misuses of power have caused conflict, suffering and divisions that are in deep need of restoration and renewal. Recognizing such oppressions is foundational to the work of reconciliation at every level, which students will have opportunities to explore and to present in research-based final projects.

Sport and Values
CHAD CARLSON (Kinesiology), Stephen Maiullo (Modern and Classical Languages), Pablo Peschiera (English)

Three new and revised courses examine the tensions between sport and ethical and moral values, especially the power of sport to build, maintain and restore community and social norms even as corruption, greed and immorality undermines the same norms. Interdisciplinary Studies 171: Cultural Heritage I (“Sport in the Ancient World”), Interdisciplinary Studies 172: Cultural Heritage II (“Sport in the Modern World”) and Kinesiology 207: Sport in Society will examine the development of sport, how it interacts with philosophy, literature, history and the social sciences, and what that tells us about ourselves in our everyday lives. Developed by the Greeks and adopted by the Romans, sport became part of the Christian world, but always contained deep tensions and contradictions. Ancient culture valued personal glory, success in war, physical beauty, political ambition and at times violent spectacles. Christianity, on the other hand, condemned ambition and pride and prized compassion, forgiveness and love of one’s enemies. In the modern world, the rise of capitalism, Calvinism and the Enlightenment redefined freedom in terms of the individual, property ownership and productivity. New initiatives in the modern world — such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Civil Rights and Title IX — have reshaped questions about freedom, duty and access in sports. These courses aim to help students deepen their understanding of the historical, philosophical and moral influences of sport on society and society on sport.

The Power of Immigration and Acculturation Narratives to Cross Borders and Build Bridges
Jesse Montaño (English), DEBORAH VAN DUINEN (Education)

Two courses — Interdisciplinary Studies 200: Encounter with Cultures and Interdisciplinary Studies 440: Senior Seminar — will explore the vital educational effects of crossing borders, both across and within cultures. Border-crossing generates the dissonance of cultural adjustments but also builds bridges and connections. Looking at and listening to the borders people within our community have to cross on a daily basis (mental, emotional, cultural, racial, socioeconomic, academic) teaches the bridge-building skills of perspective, understanding and empathy. By looking at common texts through different disciplines, students will learn that knowledge is multivalent, best seen through different lenses, and discover the power of the liberal arts at the intersection of multiple disciplines. By analyzing the composition of narratives — from the elemental parts of storytelling and how they reflect culture, to what cultural ingredients are used, even to ways of speaking and the places where it takes place — students will better understand the immersive power of listening and storytelling.  These courses build toward action, empowering students to respond to issues of immigration and acculturation in our society, our community and our college.

Awarded Fall 2016

Sociological and Historical Imagination of Peace Movements
Pamela Koch (Sociology), JEANNE PETIT (History)

Two linked courses will explore peace movements from an interdisciplinary perspective and provide a foundation for the peace and justice minor. Dr. Koch will integrate historical biography into exercises and writing in her Sociology 101: Introduction to Sociology and Social Problems (fall 2017). Dr. Petit will create a new course, HIST 200: Peace Movements (spring 2018), which will incorporate sociological theories into historical analysis. Both linked courses will involve interdisciplinary analysis and cross teaching and will be informed by Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills. Mills indicated in this seminal work that you cannot understand biography without understanding history in which the person lived. In essence, one needs to understand personal experience within the context of the social experience of the era in which one lived. Students in both courses will create a website that presents sociological and historical analysis of peace movement pioneers and activists. Students will also have an opportunity to apply for a summer research project that involves creating a website that explores the life and work of esteemed Hope alumnus A.J. Muste. Overall, these linked classes will model an interdisciplinary approach to a topic of study that has become more relevant in recent years, and will provide students with tools to understand current movements like Black Lives Matter and the North Dakota Access Pipeline protests.  

The Healing of Memories in Post-Conflict Societies
ERNEST COLE (English), DEIRDRE JOHNSTON (Communication)

Two courses will address traumatic memory in post-conflict situations in contexts of healing and reconciliation using war narratives from Sierra Leone and testimonies of witnesses to atrocities in South Africa. The narratives in both courses share a focus on the health of society, individually and collectively, after a period of carnage. Understanding of post-traumatic stress disorders provides a discursive praxis to engage mental health and healing. The courses will use novels and memoirs of post-conflict trauma in tandem with communication theory and social science research on narrative healing and reconciliation to explore PTSD as a grand challenge to achieving social-political stability after individual and national traumas.  The Healing of Memories in Post-Conflict Societies will be explored in English 234: Modern Global Literatures and Communication 395: Special Topics in Communication in fall 2017. 

Nations, Citizens, and Outsiders: Paris Stories
Principal recipients: LAUREN JANES (History), HEIDI KRAUS (Art history), Natalie Dykstra (English)
supporting collaborators: Marissa Doshi (Communication), Chuck Green (Psychology), Pauline Remy (French)

Six new and revised courses focused on the city of Paris will examine national identity and the role of so-called “outsiders” — immigrants, people of color, women, travelers, expatriates — in the formation and maintenance of that identity, using the disciplines, texts and stories of history, literature, art, psychology and communication.

On the weekend after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of New America, described his inaugural speech as an announcement of a “global nationalist movement,” in which he celebrated a “resurgence of nationalism against globalism.” As nationalism takes center stage in American politics and grows in importance around the world, we seek to examine the historic development of nationalism and the meaning of citizenship. We will focus our studies on the city of Paris: heart of the French Revolution; birthplace of universalism; capital of a global imperial power; Catholic by tradition, secular by law and largely Muslim in practice; a cosmopolitan city home to people from around the world, where women were denied suffrage until 1945; refuge for writers and artists seeking intellectual and cultural freedom; a place where citizens of North African heritage are largely segregated to the outskirts of the city; and a population targeted for terrorist attacks. As we examine the complexity of French national identity and the place of “outsiders” in the French nation through history, literature, art, psychology and communication, we will gain insight into the questions we wrestle with in the American context. Who is American; who belongs; what do we believe in; how do we make meaning; how do we make change? Sometimes it helps to examine another community to better understand our own. In asking these questions, we hope students develop a richer appreciation of themselves: their faith commitments, their role as citizens of a nation and their obligations in a global community.

Building Meaningful Connection across Cultural Divides
MICHELLE BOMBE (Theatre), JOANNE STEWART (Chemistry), ELIZABETH TREMBLEY (English)

Headlines caution that Americans are more divided than ever. Research across disciplines indicates that a failure of empathy underlies this fragmentation. How can higher education help heal this divide?  The best way to build meaningful connection, according to many experts, is through story — listening to the stories of others, telling our own stories and sharing these stories with others. Building Meaningful Connection across Cultural Divides involves courses in three divisions: IDS 100 First-Year Seminar: Telling Our Stories, English 253: Introduction to Creative Writing, and GEMS 295: Abrupt Climate Change. Through performance, literary genre and contentious concepts, students in these courses will explore human difference to strengthen their empathetic muscles. Each of the three courses will use its particular disciplinary approach to look into controversial issues and what motivates people to position themselves on different sides. The Abrupt Climate Change students will collect stories throughout the semester of people around the world who have been impacted by climate change. They will explore their own beliefs about the natural world through a scaffolded poetry assignment adapted from the Introduction to Creative Writing course. The Telling Our Stories students will work with narrative collection, improvisation and acting exercises to develop curiosity and understanding of the language of physical and verbal communication. The Introduction to Creative Writing students will focus their study of poetry and narrative through the lens of climate change and other divisive issues. They will collaborate to create a script for performance by the Telling Our Stories students. Ultimately the art of both acting and creative writing lies in understanding in such depth another person’s story that one can communicate that story to others. By connecting these skills to the issue of climate change we will guide students to understand how artful empathy can help them build meaningful connections across cultural divides and lead to respect and collaboration in future problem-solving.

Going Global, Starting Local: Disability in Contemporary Societies
Principal recipients: WEI YU WAYNE TAN (History), Dennis Feaster (Social Work), Alyssa Cheadle (Psychology), JARED ORTIZ (Religion)
supporting collaborators: Melissa Bouws (Nursing), Natalie Dykstra (English)

Five new and revised courses focused on disability and framed by broader discourses of health will address the relationship between disability and society and explore how this holistic understanding of disability is crucial to our identities as local community leaders and global citizens.

Disability affects all of us at some point. According to the World Health Organization’s most recent 2015 estimates, over a billion people of the world’s population experience some form of disability. By thinking about disability as a global challenge and, at the same time, as an issue of urgency for our local communities, this project proposes to uncover the significance of disability in our lives in global and local contexts. Through this pioneer interdivisional collaboration that is informed by the goals of theoretical and experiential learning, the project team combines the latest research on the historical constructs of disability in contemporary societies with fieldwork findings from social workers and health practitioners. New and revised courses include a General Education IDS 172, Disability in Modern Societies (Cultural Heritage II) in fall 2017 and more specialized courses with a focus on disability starting in spring 2018: Social Work 295, Disability and Community; Psychology 420, Health Psychology; Nursing 385, Gerontological Theory and Practice; Religion 26X, Theology of the Human Person. This range of courses, individually and together, will introduce to students to the rich fields of interdisciplinary scholarship on disability and allow students to find new perspectives for themselves through hands-on work and to embody Christian values in caring for our communities.

Immigration Stories
BERTA CARRASCO (Spanish) and Debra Swanson (Sociology)

A First-Year Seminar dealing with the important topics of immigration and identity in a period of great public dialogue on the subject.

“Build that wall!” was one of the rallying cries of the 2016 presidential campaign. Since then President Trump has announced a ban on immigration from some Middle-Eastern and African countries. There is no denying that immigration is a hot-button topic. Much of that attention, however, has ignored the personal stories of strength and industry in individual immigrants. This course examines the history of immigration to cities and urban areas of the United States from the nineteenth century up to today. The impact of immigration and ethnicity on American society and culture will inform the class as we also look at our own identity. Students will wrestle with these topics through academic readings, experiential learning and a field trip to Chicago.  

Summary of Divisions, Departments and Faculty Members

 Summary of Courses Proposed

  • ART 114 Basic Drawing
  • ART 241 Modern Art and Architecture
  • COMM 151 Media and Society in the World
  • COMM 395 Healing in Post-Conflict Societies
  • ENGL 234 Modern Global Literature
  • ENGL 253 Introduction to Creative Writing: Empathy and Narrative
  • ENGL 37x American Writers in the World
  • GEMS 295 Abrupt Climate Change
  • HIST 200 Peace Movements in the U.S.
  • IDS 100 First-Year Seminar: Immigration Stories
  • IDS 100 First-Year Seminar: Telling Our Stories
  • IDS 100 First-Year Seminar: Defining Nations, Shaping a City
  • IDS 200 Encounter with Cultures
  • IDS 171 Cultural Heritage I: Sports and the Ancient World
  • IDS 172 Cultural Heritage II: Disability in Global Societies
  • IDS 172 Cultural Heritage II: Defining Nations, Shaping a City
  • IDS 172 Cultural Heritage II: Africana Womanism: Origins, Legacies
  • IDS 172 Cultural Heritage II: Sports and the Modern World
  • IDS 440 Senior Seminar: Between the World and You
  • IDS 495 Identity and Inclusion
  • KIN 207 Sport in Society
  • NURS 385 Gerontological Theory and Practice
  • POL 305 African Politics
  • PSY 420 Health Psychology
  • REL 26X Theology of the Human Person
  • SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology: Peace Movements
  • SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology: Transforming Lives through Art
  • SWK 295 Disability and Community
  • SWK 401 Social Interventions III: Communities and Organizations