Fall semester classes for the 160th academic year at Hope College will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 31.

The incoming freshman Class of 2025 will arrive on Friday, Aug. 27, with New Student Orientation beginning that evening and continuing through Monday, Aug. 30.  The college’s Opening Convocation will be on Sunday, Aug. 29, at 2 p.m. at the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse (relocated from Ray and Sue Smith Stadium due to the high temperatures anticipated that day) and will feature an address by Dr. Gerald Griffin, who is interim provost and an associate professor in the departments of biology and psychology.

The college is planning on an in-person school year, with the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic continuing to inform operations according to local, state and federal guidelines and requirements, and local health conditions.  In conjunction with the start of the school year, for example, the move-in times for students have been staggered, as they also were during 2020-21, to limit the number of students and families present in residence halls and dining halls simultaneously.

Additionally, due to the August 13 announcement by the Ottawa County Department of Public Health that the county’s transmission rate is now in the high-risk category, masks must be worn by all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, while indoors on campus unless in their living space or alone in their work space.  The college will reassess the mask policy on September 14 based on transmission rates and campus wastewater and surveillance testing.

“We recognize that none of us want to wear masks again. Yet we also recognize that doing so is for the health and safety of ALL faculty, staff and students at our college,” the college’s Campus Health Advisory Team said in a message sent to students and their families on August 19.  “We can do this together because it allows us to still be together. Thank you for partnering with us in this endeavor.”

Hope continues to strongly encourage members of the campus community to be vaccinated, and is also seeking their vaccination status to inform planning.  As of August 19, 81.4% of enrolled students were fully vaccinated or planned to be fully vaccinated early in the semester, and more than 81% of faculty and staff had reported being fully vaccinated.  As of August 20, according to the State of Michigan’s COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage dashboard, for Ottawa County the vaccination initiation rate (1 or more doses of any vaccine) for those 12 and older was 61.56% and for the state the rate was 59.8%.

As during 2020-21, Hope will monitor campus wastewater for the virus. The college also continues to have a quarantine and isolation process, as well as safeguards for those who are not vaccinated that include pre-arrival testing and surveillance testing.

Updates regarding circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic are posted regularly at hope.edu/coronavirus.

Dr. Gerald GriffinOpening Convocation speaker Dr. Gerald Griffin has been a member of the Hope faculty since 2015. He was appointed associate provost for academic affairs in 2019, and became interim provost in January 2021.

He is a neuroscientist and virologist who has several peer-reviewed publications that represent his dedication to neuroscience research and education.  He has mentored and published with more than 30 undergraduate and graduate students, and has been active in numerous science-education opportunities, including being a council member for the Faculty of Undergraduate Neuroscience.

His research interests primarily focus on the reciprocal interactions between viruses and the nervous system.  In 2019, he was named an Emerging Scholar by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, and Hope presented him with its Janet L. Andersen Excellence in Teaching Award.  In 2016, he and his team of Hope student researchers received the college’s “Social Sciences Young Investigators Award” for investigating the normal functioning of the peptide amyloid beta, which has been found in elevated levels as a plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.  During the college’s Winter Happening event in January 2017, he presented a seminar examining research highlighting the roles of infectious agents in decreasing mental function.

Prior to coming to Hope, Griffin was an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Tuskegee University for four years, previously serving as a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania for two years.  He completed his doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and undergraduate degree at Cornell University in 2003.