Dordt College News

New faculty, staff at Dordt College

August 26, 2004

Six new faculty members, six adjunct faculty and four new staff personnel have signed on for the upcoming 2004-2005 academic year at Dordt College.

In the engineering department, Matthew Dressler will fill a two-year void as professor Kevin Timmer takes a leave to pursue his Ph.D. From Cincinnati, Ohio, Dressler recently defended his dissertation at the University of Cincinnati, where he also earned his master’s degree in Engineering Mechanics/Biomechanics. Matt and his wife, Courtney, have an eight-month-old son, Alexander.

Dressler grew up in the Washington D.C. region, and he received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). At 6’7”, he enjoys playing basketball, and while at UMBC played against such notables as Joe Smith and Jason Kidd.

“The opportunity to combine faith with vocation” is the reason Dressler cites for his attraction to Dordt College. Dressler has been researching cell-based repair of tendon injuries and hopes to continue this biomechanic research while teaching a variety of upperclass engineering courses.

Launching a new position in the Criminal Justice department will be Ruth Harthoorn Kocisko, previously a private practice lawyer at Washington, D.C. Born and raised in the Boyden-Hull area, Kocisko specialized in criminal law, child abuse and neglect cases during her years in the court systems of Washington, D.C.

A Dordt graduate, Kocisko earned her JD (Juris Doctorate) from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Over the years she has been a mentor for at least 15 college interns through the American Studies Program (several from Dordt), and says she always enjoyed the interaction with college age students.

Since moving to Sioux Center with her sons (John, 14, and David, 10), Kocisko has been busy familiarizing herself with law enforcement and government agencies in the region. In addition to teaching courses in criminal investigation, she will locate sites for student field experiences. Kocisko said as a lawyer she looked for mistakes law enforcement made, and that will help her in teaching criminal law students to be meticulous in enforcing the law. She added the Department of Labor anticipates a 29 percent increase in criminal justice jobs by 2010, and that this major prepares grads for a variety of fields, including law enforcement, corrections, probation and parole, court staff and teaching.

In her spare time, Kocisko enjoys playing classical piano music and working out.

New to the social work department is Packiaraj, from Trichy, India. Packiaraj and his wife, Santhi, have one daughter, Sherin, 10. Coming from a city with a population of 600,000, Sioux Center is quite a change for their family. However, Packiaraj says, “I feel at home because God’s children are here.”

Packiaraj earned his MSW and PhD at Bharathidasan University, Tamil Nadu, India, and has been teaching at Bishop Heber College in India. He looks forward to the opportunity to tie Biblical concepts to the field of social work, something he was not able to do in the predominately Hindu population of India. Both Packiaraj and his wife enjoy singing Indian language songs.

Offering new perspectives in the theology department is Dr. Jay Shim, a native of Seoul, Korea who comes to Dordt College from a position as Dean of Research and Professor of Theology at Cheonan University in Seoul. Although he has strong ties to Korea, Dr. Shim is a U.S. citizen and has spent most of his life here. He has worked as a multi-cultural liason for the Christian Reformed denomination for many years. Dr. Shim received all his higher education in the Reformed tradition, beginning with a philosophy major at Calvin College through his PhD in theology. Shim said he sought the position here because of Dordt’s Reformed identity and mission statement.

Dr. Shim and his wife, Joyce, live in Sioux Center. Their sons, Paul, 21, and David, 18, are students at Calvin College and Michigan State University, respectively. Their youngest son, Alvin, is a junior at Unity Christian High School, along with Jay’s niece, Kathy, who is a freshman. Shim said his first major was in art, and he still enjoys doing watercolor paintings.

In the psychology department, David Wilcox comes to Dordt College from Liberty University at Lynchburg, Virginia, where he was an adjunct instructor in psychology while completing his PhD course work.

Wilcox said he wanted to shift from a clinical practice to teaching, and his search for a Reformed institution led him to Dordt. His nontraditional path here began with 11 years of military service in the U.S., Europe and the Far East, then earning a bachelor’s degree from Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss., and his master’s degree in clinical psychology from Wheaton College in Illinois. Wilcox is completing his PhD from Liberty University. His dissertation research deals with the relationships between depression, spirituality and adaptation to college in freshmen.

The Wilcox family has previously raised labrador retrievers for a seeing eye foundation, and they have not yet decided if they will continue doing so. David’s wife, Denise, drives school bus, and David plans to coach football at Unity Christian High School, in addition to his duties at Dordt College. They have four children: Milton, 21, in Virginia with the Coast Guard; Sarah, 19, in Alaska with the Air Force; Nathan, 15, and Hannah, 12.

“From our very first visit, it felt like home,” says Wilcox of Sioux Center. “We feel like it’s a good place to be.”

Filling a one year opening in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department is Dawn Wolthuis, Sioux Center. Wolthuis is the president “and janitor” of her own software development company, Tincat Group, Inc. She will put some of her own projects on hold for a year to teach calculus, java programming, systems analysis and design. Wolthuis earned a bachelor’s degree at Calvin College and her Master’s in Mathematics at Michigan State. Among her prior positions, she was the director of computer services at Calvin College before starting her own company.

The wife of Thomas Wolthuis, assistant professor of theology at Dordt College, the couple has two daughters, Hope (Meador), 23, and Shauna, 20. Wolthuis says politically she has always been an independent, but her support of John Kerry for president recently resulted in her being selected as a Democratic delegate to the state convention.

Along with these full-time faculty, six new adjunct instructors will also be teaching on Dordt’s campus this year. Sarah Den Boer, Sioux Center, is a 2002 Dordt graduate who is returning to the area from Chicago. She will teach English and Gen 100, as well as her own freelance writing projects. Carol Hallberg, Le Mars, will be teaching a class and doing instruction through the Lamb School in Sioux City. Brian Kroeze, Orange City, will coach softball. Gwen Marra will teach in the Education Department. She is a Dordt graduate and the owner and director of Learning Ship Preschool in Sioux Center, as well as the mother of four children ages 5-11. John Paul, Orange City, will teach stagecraft and scenic design in the theater department. He is a professor at Northwestern College. Michael Siebersma is an Education Department adjunct.

Staff additions at Dordt College are Greg Van Dyke, Rev. Clifford Bajema, and Arlo and Heidi (Karges) Bakker. Van Dyke is an ’02 Dordt graduate who is serving as an admissions counselor and assistant track coach. The Bakkers are ’03 Dordt graduates who will run the Humble Bean coffee house and serve as caretakers for the alumni house.

Rev. Cliff Bajema has spent most of his pastoral career on college campuses, including more than 15+ years at Geneva Campus Church at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His intention to retire last summer was waylaid when Dordt College presented him with the opportunity to fill a one year interim campus pastor position on a Christian college campus.

“There’s a real beauty of Christian community here,” said Rev. Bajema.

Originally from Lynden, Wash., Bajema attended Calvin College and Seminary, and has been a campus pastor at the University of Colorado, Kent State and the University of Wisconsin. He sees his year at Dordt as being a time of revisioning, utilizing his past campus experiences to stimulate new energy and imagination in meeting the spiritual needs of students, faculty and staff here at Dordt College.

Rev. Bajema has taught college courses in ethics, and this year will be teaching a study of the discipline of binding prayer to scripture. He is also a published author whose books include Abortion and the Meaning of Personhood and a book of pastoral poetry, Sinews of Fleece.

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