“Last Lecture” on April 26 to Explore “Flourishing in a Messy Life”
Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet of the Hope College psychology faculty will present the address “Flourishing in a Messy Life” on Wednesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall through the “Last Lecture Series” organized by the college’s Dianne Portfleet Alcor chapter of the national Mortar Board honorary society.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
vanOyen-Witvliet is a professor of psychology and department chair, and has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1997. Her teaching responsibilities have included Introductory Psychology, Positive Psychology, Behavior Disorders, Clinical Psychology, Internships, and Advanced Research Lab. She loves teaching and mentoring students with a vision to cultivate competence with compassion so that they are prepared for effective and faithful service and leadership in a diverse world.
She has conducted research in trauma, mental health, emotion and psychophysiology, with a specialized focus in experimental research on approaches that develop forgiveness, repentance, gratitude and hope. She has enjoyed mentoring many Hope students in research on mental health and virtue, co-authoring with students a dozen peer reviewed publications and more than 60 professional conference presentations. Her research teams have won 10 Psi Chi Regional Research Awards, and seven of her lab students are now psychology professors who mentor their students.
vanOyen-Witvliet has published dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters about her research, and has given more than 100 professional presentations in local, national and international venues. She has been a member of national, multi-year, interdisciplinary work groups on the pursuit of happiness and leading from the soul. She has conducted more than 120 media interviews about forgiveness, with her research featured in venues such as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ABC CBS, Michigan Radio and international newspapers. Her research is referenced in blogs and books, most recently “The Book of Joy,” co-authored by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, 2016.
vanOyen-Witvliet received the college’s Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award in 2008. She has received external grant support for her research from the John Templeton Foundation, the Fetzer Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and support from Hope through the Towsley Research Scholar Award, the Faith and Learning Fund, the Frost Center for Social Science Research, and the John H. and Jeanne M. Jacobson endowed professorship.
Prior to joining the Hope psychology faculty, she graduated from Calvin College with a B.A. in psychology and music in 1991 and from Purdue University with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1997. She trained as a scientist-practitioner clinical psychologist at Purdue University and completed her American Psychological Association predoctoral internship at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center affiliated with Duke University, focusing on trauma and associated disorders, neuropsychological assessment, behavioral medicine, inpatient and outpatient care.
One of her great joys as a professor at Hope is the opportunity to be a part of the process by which students discern their vocations — the ways in which they can use their God-given gifts and opportunities to meet genuine needs in this world. vanOyen-Witvliet was part of the grant-writing team that secured the Lilly Endowment’s Theological Exploration of Vocation $2 million grant to Hope. She served on the advisory board of the college’s CrossRoads Program for 10 years, followed by the Center for Ministry Studies for four years. vanOyen-Witvliet’s own multi-facetted sense of vocation includes co-parenting four teens with her husband, John.
She delivered Hope College’s Opening Convocation address in August 2012 and will be presenting the ninth “Last Lecture” sponsored by the Mortar Board chapter. The title “Last Lecture,’ is rhetorical. The lectures are not literally presented as the last that the speakers will deliver at Hope, but are meant to highlight the advice that faculty and staff would most want to share if the event was indeed the final opportunity for them to address the college’s students. The speakers are asked to reflect on their careers and lives, and to think deeply about what matters to them and about what wisdom they would like to impart.
The concept was inspired by the “Last Lecture” delivered at Carnegie Mellon University by Dr. Randy Pausch on Sept. 18, 2007. Pausch, a member of the Carnegie Mellon faculty who had terminal pancreatic cancer--a fact known at the time that he spoke--presented “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” He died on July 25, 2008, at age 47.
Mortar Board is a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for outstanding achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, and provides opportunities for continued leadership development, promotes service to college and universities, and encourages lifelong contributions to the global community. Since its founding in 1918, the organization has grown from the four founding chapters to 231 collegiate chapters with nearly 250,000 initiated members across the nation.
The Dianne Portfleet Alcor chapter has existed at Hope since the 1936-37 academic year, although it did not become part of the national Mortar Board organization until 1961. Renamed for former long-time faculty adviser Dr. Dianne Portfleet in May 2016, the chapter has received multiple awards at the Mortar Board National Conference during each of the past several years, including being named the top chapter during the national conference in July 2010. During the conference this past summer, the chapter received a “Golden Torch Award” and 15 “Project Excellence” awards.
The chapter also sponsored a “last chance talk” during the 1960s. The idea then was to invite a faculty member to express his/her ideas under the hypothetical assumption that this would be the last opportunity to address the student body. The late Dr. D. Ivan Dykstra, professor of philosophy, delivered the first “last chance talk” in the spring of 1962.
Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., between 10th and 12th streets.