/ Provost's Office

Sabbatical Summaries

Welcome back to our faculty returning from sabbatical or leave of absence!

Aaron Best – Biology

Dr. Aaron Best, the Harrison C. and Mary. L. Visscher Professor of Genetics at Hope College, was on sabbatical leave during the 2017–2018 academic year. A year-long sabbatical was made possible by extramural funding, supporting research on three major research projects within his lab. Dr. Best remained at Hope College to run the three projects, focusing on student research experiences, data gathering, data analysis and dissemination of results.

In collaboration with principal investigators from the chemistry, geology and environmental sciences, and computer science departments, Dr. Best’s research group consisted of 21 students in the summer of 2017, over 15 students during the academic year and 25 students in the summer of 2018.

The three research projects focused on:

  1. Long term monitoring of the Macatawa Watershed as local community efforts to remediate the watershed continue
  2. Global surveys of quality of unimproved drinking water supplies from over 20 countries and the efficacy of point-of-use water filtration systems in international settings
  3. Development of methods to improve computational modeling of microbial metabolism and analysis of metabolic pathways in all sequenced bacteria

Dr. Best was an author on four research articles; nine presentations at local, community and national conferences; and student researchers presented over 20 posters and talks. The Day1 Watershed Research Community, Dr. Best, Dr. Catherine Mader and Dr. Brent Krueger received the “Stakeholder of the Year” Award from the Macatawa Watershed Project for their contribution to understanding and communicating to the local community the effects of remediation of Lake Macatawa.

Dr. Best was nominated for and selected as an American Society for Microbiology Distinguished Lecturer and Waksman Foundation Lecturer with a term running from 2018 through 2020. He received over $1 million in new extramural funding for research projects from the National Science Foundation and private sources. New projects focused on drinking water quality in international school and refugee camp settings will stem from parts of this funding.

Finally, Dr. Best focused on work-life balance, including catching up on the extensive set of Marvel Cinematic Universe films with his family (he is happy to discuss rank orderings of movies and characters) and making time for travel with his family.

Liliana Dorado – Modern and Classical Languages

On her sabbatical, Liliana had proposed to write a couple of articles and spend some time in Spain collecting authentic materials for use in future classes. She settled in Tarragona, the capital of one of the four Catalonian provinces just over an hour by train from Barcelona. Being in Tarragona for a year gave her the opportunity to get to know Catalonia in a different way.

Liliana got to know the interior of Catalonia, its mountains where temples and monks live removed from the world, and has been researching the organization of a future May term in this region of Spain. It is a project that could be very meaningful if shared with a professor of religion or art. The future will tell if there is space for such a project.

In regards to her research, Liliana spent time working on two articles. The first is a critical approach to a speech that Mercedes Pinto gave in Madrid in 1923, entitled "Divorce as a hygienic measure.” The second article, a work in progress, compares novels by young writers from different backgrounds that share narrative themes and resources.

Marissa Doshi – Communication

This sabbatical provided Marissa much-needed time and space to strengthen her research program as she focused on three goals.

Goal one was completing existing research projects and beginning new projects. Marissa wrote and revised multiple manuscripts. All of these projects advanced the overarching goal of her Towsley fellowship: cultivating a research program that centers digital culture.

Goal two was engagement with the communication scholarly community, which included attending and presenting at the International Communication Association’s annual conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Marrisa has also worked to organize a day-long preconference during the upcoming National Communication Association’s annual conference. She also served as a reviewer for both NCA and ICA and communication journals.

Goal three was curriculum enhancement, which involved revising the curriculum of COMM 151: Media and Society: Social Media Activism to fulfill the updated Global Learning International requirements as well as creating a course pack for the course and refining assignments to meet global learning outcomes. This course is offered every semester.

Janis Gibbs - History

During her spring 2018 sabbatical, Janis Gibbs combined research, writing, translating, travel and time with family. She completed a review of a volume of essays (which were in four languages, providing extra excitement) for the Sixteenth Century Journal. She made progress on her main research project, a study of a sixteenth-century Archbishop of Cologne, who had both a Protestant and a Catholic funeral. This will end up either as an article or a sourcebook for teaching. As part of the research for the sourcebook, she began translating a biography of the bishop from a sixteenth-century German martyrology. In April, she organized 16 panels for the 2019 Sixteenth Century Studies conference. In all this, she enjoyed the support of a sabbatical support group including Curtis Gruenler and Stephen Maiullo.

On the non-research front, she taught in the 2018 Vienna Summer School under the direction of Stephen Hemenway and, with Stephen Maiullo, mentored students applying for Fulbright fellowships. On December 30, she started her sabbatical by taking the California Zephyr train to California and attending the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. In mid-January, she traveled to New York to be with her family, following the death of one of her cousins in a car accident. In July, she cared for her almost-19-year-old cat, Hugo Black, and mourned his death on July 21. She is still working on a revision of the syllabus for the history capstone seminar. She is very grateful for the opportunities presented by this sabbatical.

Brigitte Hamon-Porter – Modern and Classical Languages

During her sabbatical, Brigitte worked on the novels of the French-Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun who wrote on the Tunisian uprising of 2011 and presented her research at the NeMLA conference in Pitsburgh in April 2018. She subsequently developed an article on the subject titled “Mapping the Tunisian Uprising in Tahar Ben Jelloun’s Par le feu and Leyla Bouzid’s À peine j’ouvre les yeux” that is currently under review for publication in The French Review.

The second research project she developed was on the topic of the Algerian civil war of the 1990s. She worked on an article about two influential Algerian authors, Maissa Bey and Yasmina Khadra, who wrote novels on the Red Decade. In the article she wrote on the topic, Brigitte explores issues related to the war such as terrorism, the recording of traumatic events, and the uneasy reconciliation imposed on the population by the government. The article is currently under review for publication. Her proposal for a panel on the same topic at the NeMLA conference in Washington, D.C., in April 2019 was accepted.

The third project of her sabbatical was on the influence of Sufism in the work of the Malian/Mauritanian filmmaker Abdheramme Sissako, the most important cineast of the last decade to come from Africa. She read extensively on various film movements and film theories. She intends to pursue this research in the coming months and submit it in the form of an article to a refereed journal.

Steven Hoogerwerf – Religion

Steven Hoogerwerf spent his sabbatical on a narrowly focused topic and task: to write three chapters for a potential future book on the problem of evil and human suffering. The topic comprises the final section of his Religion and Atrocity course. This project began with an intensive month of reading in order to catch up on both theological and philosophical issues and to read some recent personal reflections of Christian theologians living with a terminal cancer diagnosis. During the writing phase he completed chapters on the following topics:

  1. The Problem of Evil: What’s the Problem?
  2. A Theological Tour of Common “Comfort Phrases”
  3. The Intellectual Dilemma: Questions that Challenge Faith and an Examination of Responses

Four additional chapters are planned.

In addition to this project, Steve’s family also had the extra time to come alongside an extended family member who was diagnosed with and treated for cancer. The “sabbath’ dimension of sabbatical provided the flexibility to step away from work on occasion when actually caring for someone who was suffering was called for. And on a more positive note, Steve and Joellen were able to take a trip to celebrate 40 years of marriage. Finally, being on sabbatical was accompanied by the wise decision to suspend his Pine Ridge May Term course, but it did provide time to take a trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation to lead an extended onsite board of directors retreat and to connect with a few of his Lakota friends who will be part of the 2019 Pine Ridge May term course. Steve is excited to return to the classroom for his 27th year at Hope.

Yooyeun Hwang – Education

Yooyeun’s sabbatical included two goals. The first was to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea and work as a volunteer, and the second was to continue a single-case research project. She was able to accomplish half of the first goal and more than expected of the second. In addition, since she was an exchange professor at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan, from September 2017 to January 2018; the first month of her sabbatical was spent finishing her teaching there. She also attended prayer training and theology lectures for her spiritual growth.

Stephen Maiullo – Modern and Classical Languages

Steve Maiullo spent his sabbatical completing an old project and starting a new one. The old project, just about ready to be sent off to the publisher, began in 2011 in collaboration with Professor Emerita of French, Anne Larsen. Larsen and Maiullo aim to provide a English translation of the private Latin and French correspondence and poetry of Dutch phenom Anna Maria Van Schurman (1607–78). Her letters to Andre Rivet, her mentor, world-renowned theologian, and personal tutor to the Prince of Orange, the future William II, reveal her excitement when she meets him for the first time, her tender feelings toward him as he adopts her as his covenant daughter, and her inconsolable grief when he dies. Her letters and poems to Constantijn Huygens, one of the greatest poets of the Dutch Golden Age, detail how, with grace and elegance, Van Schurman had to deal with the constant come-ons, proposals, innuendos and “privilege” of the intellectuals of her day. #metoo

Much of Steve’s time before his sabbatical was spent reviving a moribund classics program, and he learned some things along the way about what good, meaningful teaching in the humanities might look like in our contemporary world. He learned so much that he thought it might be a good idea to write a book on the subject. He currently doesn’t have a title, though he does have a rough draft of about three chapters and an intended audience: other teachers in the humanities who might struggle, as Steve does, when they walk into a room full of bright future chemists, engineers, nurses, pastors, entrepreneurs, financiers and lawyers who look at their copy of the Iliad for Cultural Heritage I and think “Why on earth am I required to take this class?”

Steve Nelson – Art and Art History

Beginning in early February, Steve Nelson has been photographing a fleet of tug boats in situ across the Great Lakes region. This aging but active fleet is comprised of a variety of models, from domestic maritime to international military service, ranging from the late 19th to the Mid-20th Century. A number of the tug boats in this fleet are slated to be decommissioned in the near future.

The Odyssey project is a journey across the scope of current and historic photographic processes through the use of traditional view cameras to record the image on film and then transferring those images into high resolution laser drums scans and outputting with carbon digital print technology. Both Nelson’s production process and choice of subjects reflect his concerns regarding human progress and the conditions of obsolescent technology. Expanding on earlier series of post-industrial subjects of abandoned mining sites (Gardens of Industry) and manufacturing roof tops vents and smokestacks (Angels and Guardians), this final series will complete the elemental scope of Earth, Sky, and Water. An exhibition of Nelson’s sabbatical work will be presented in the De Pree Art Center Gallery during the 2019–20 exhibition season.

Brian Porter – Economics and Business

Brian’s sabbatical allowed him to research and write on three different topics.

His first project was performing broad exploratory simulations of different strategies for drawing savings/investments during retirement. His focus was creating a dynamic model that recalculates draw amounts and comparing this with a popular fixed percent rate method. The performance of Brian’s dynamic draw calculation was favorable with an advantage being that it assures that retirement savings are not depleted and that a specified cash amount remains subsequent to the final draw. The results were presented at a conference and are currently under review for a journal.

Brian’s second project developed his pedagogy for achieving student understanding of dollar-cost averaging (DCA). A simulation was created that involves student teams performing active investing decisions. Students compare results with DCA and are subsequently assigned the task of determining heuristics that calculate the lowest and highest possible portfolio values for the simulation. A detailed description of the exercise was presented at a conference and is under review for a journal.

Brian’s third research endeavor studied U2’s (particularly Bono’s) crisis of faith as lyricized in the songs of the album Pop. Drawing upon the writings of various theologians (past and present), Brian proposes that possibly U2’s (Bono’s) questioning/rejection of previous simpler ideas of God, and being replaced with a newer complex understanding and acceptance of broader ideas/beliefs, is a consequence of a growing and maturing faith. This is a natural progression as one encounters the greater world and various cultures, as have the members of U2. A formal presentation of this conjecture was given at the U2 Pop Vision conference in Belfast where a diverse group of academics and U2 aficionados from around the world were in attendance.

Leigh Sears – Kinesiology

Leigh created an electronic text book for the general education course Health Dynamics. Prior to the creation of the electronic version, the current text was edited as well as updated. Once edited, InDesign was used to create an interactive and more visually pleasing text. The new format was tested for its compatibility with iOS, Android and Windows platforms.

The new text was broken into four individual texts or chapters for ease of distribution. Each chapter will be placed on Moodle prior to its discussion. This provides the ability for continuous updates including current events, research articles and new government recommendations. This is an improvement over the black and white tape bound text that was only updated every two years.

Darin Stephenson – Mathematics

Darin spent his sabbatical in Holland, where he studied machine learning and artificial neural networks. Jointly with Mark Pearson, Paul Pearson and four students, he completed a book chapter on bird identification from birdsong samples using neural networks. This chapter will be submitted early in the fall semester to a publication aimed at preparing undergraduate students to do research on various topics in mathematical biology. He also completed final edits on a graph theory article, written jointly with two students, that will appear in a journal later this year.

Deborah Van Duinen – Education

Over 2017–2018, Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, associate professor of English education, took her sabbatical to work on the scholarly projects she loves most: researching literacy, writing about what she learned and dreaming up ways to make the Big Read even bigger.

Deb planned and implemented a fourth successful Big Read program in November 2017 that impacted over 10,000 people in the community. She also rebranded the program with a new name, logo and organizational structure because of its expanded scope. She received her fifth National Endowment for the Arts grant and is in the midst of planning the NEA Big Read Lakeshore’s 2018 program around Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven this upcoming November. Deb also collected and analyzed literacy-related data around teacher participation in The Big Read and theorized the curricular implications of community literacy and teachers’ conceptual frameworks for teaching literature. She also developed a framework for analyzing spirituality and faith in young adult novels. Deb made research presentations at:

  • National Council of Teachers of English
  • National Council of Teacher of English Assembly on Research
  • Michigan Council of Teachers of English
  • Kuyers Institute Conference
  • Festival of Faith and Writing

She was appointed to and started serving on the Executive Committee of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English. Deb submitted three peer-reviewed articles and two book chapter manuscripts for publication, read over 30 young adult novels, and facilitated a mother-daughter and mother-son book club.