Hope College is one of only 11 colleges and universities nationwide chosen to participate in "Deliberation about Things That Matter," an initiative sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa to encourage the teaching and learning of deliberative skills through the discussion of major issues of meaning or value.

Through the support, Hope is developing a program with an academic focus for incoming freshmen in conjunction with New Student Orientation that will also link with campus-wide events scheduled for later in the school year.

"We are honored that Phi Beta Kappa selected Hope for participation and recognized our longstanding commitment to a liberal education that engages students in the deliberative thinking about issues that impact our world," said Dr. James Boelkins, provost at Hope. "The opportunity to engage our first-year students in discussions of important cultural issues will contribute to our efforts to grow world citizens in the soil of Hope."

All of the college's incoming freshmen are being provided with a copy of the book "Stealing Buddha's Dinner" by Bich Minh Nguyen, which they are to read during the summer to discuss in small groups during Hope's New Student Orientation on Monday, Aug. 27. The book focuses on Nguyen's experience growing up in Grand Rapids as a Vietnamese immigrant and the challenges she faced as she struggled to fit into American culture.

The Hope program is designed to tie in with the college's Critical Issues Symposium, which will take place on Tuesday-Wednesday, Oct. 2-3, and focus on a variety of issues related to immigration. Additional activities planned for the fall include having Nguyen visit campus to speak on Thursday, Aug. 30, and also linking to the college's First-Year Seminar program, in which all freshmen enroll.

For 230 years, Phi Beta Kappa has advocated excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. "Deliberation about Things That Matter" emphasizes the first purpose of the society: to encourage the application of learning and scholarship in the examination of important topics.

The overall "Deliberation about Things That Matter" initiative has been funded through a $100,000 grant to the Phi Beta Kappa Society from the Teagle Foundation. In addition to Hope, the participating colleges and universities are: Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, Colorado College, Drake University, Hendrix College, Stetson University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Vermont, Wabash College and Washington State University.

The coordinating body on each campus is a partnership between the institution's Phi Beta Kappa chapter and a campus curricular authority, such as the Honors College, the Dean of Arts and Sciences or the Curriculum Committee. At Hope, those involved in the project include faculty involved with the college's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the Office of Student Development, the Provost's Office, the First-Year Seminar program, the Carl Frost Center for Social Science Research, and the President's Office.

In all cases, the organizers at each institution will not only engage students and faculty in deliberative activities, but will also observe and analyze those activities with the aim of coming to understand what happens when people deliberate well, how people learn the skills involved and how they acquire the disposition to use those skills.

The society's intent is to have an impact on the campuses and, following the project, to produce a white paper of general interest on the topic in order to spread to others what is learned. The society also aims to strengthen the role of the Phi Beta Kappa chapters involved on their campuses and to raise the visibility of Phi Beta Kappa as a champion of the liberal arts and sciences.

Phi Beta Kappa has awarded chapters at 276 institutions and has half a million members throughout the country. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression. Among its programs are academic and literary awards, lectureships, a fellowship, a professorship, and publication of "The American Scholar," an award-winning quarterly journal.

Hope is one of only eight colleges or universities in Michigan to have a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Hope's chapter was chartered in 1971.