The Department of Sociology and Social Work at Hope College is receiving the inaugural Excellence in Collaboration Award from the Chicago Semester off-campus-study program.

The award will be presented on Friday, April 12, during the Chicago Semester’s 45th Anniversary Awards Celebration.

“Hope College has been a founding partner college since Chicago Semester’s beginning in 1974, and your department has been instrumental in promoting the goals and mission of our work with students,” the Chicago program shared in its award-notification letter.  “Your faculty and staff consistently open up their classrooms and dedicate time to hosting campus visits from our team, connecting us to students who could benefit from the value of experiential education.  Your department has also demonstrated leadership in partnership with its work to create a new field requirement option in Chicago for Criminal Justice and Sociology students.”

The Department of Sociology and Social Work’s engagement with the Chicago Semester through the years has included organizing informational meetings for students from throughout the college.  Recent emphasis for the department’s students in particular has been on working with the off-campus program to develop new options for those who are pursuing a concentration in criminal justice.  Intended for students preparing for careers in law enforcement, the criminal-justice system and related occupations, and established in 2001, the 32-credit concentration within the sociology major requires not only coursework but a semester-long internship.

“We’re grateful for our partnership with the Chicago Semester,” said Dr. Aaron Franzen, an assistant professor of sociology whose academic specializations include criminology.  “The Chicago Semester has a strong history of placing students in meaningful internships and its extensive network spans the greater Chicago area.  With that expertise they’ve arranged a tremendous number of outstanding, specialized opportunities for our criminal-justice students, significantly enhancing our program.”

The mission of the Chicago Semester is to provide urban, experiential education from a Christian perspective that equips students for integrated personal, professional and public lives.   Participating students not only hold an internship but attend academic seminars while living independently in Chicagoland.  The semester’s staff helps the students line up their internship placements and find housing.

The Chicago Semester serves students from many disciplines in addition to sociology and social work.  Hope education students are able to conduct their semester-long student teaching in Chicago-area schools through the program, and the college’s nursing students can complete their final clinical experience in Chicago.  Other internship placements through the years have ranged from accounting, to event planning, graphic design, the health sciences, law, the media, public relations, sports management, theatre and more.

In the years since 1974, the program has served nearly 4,000 students from more than 20 partner and affiliate colleges.  In addition to Hope, the founding colleges were Calvin College, Central College, Dordt College, Northwestern College and Trinity Christian College.

The recognition by the Chicago Semester marks the second time this year that the Department of Sociology and Social Work has earned external acclaim.  This past fall, College Factual ranked Hope’s social work program second out of the 16 such programs in the state and in the top 15 percent (53rd out of 361) nationwide.