Dordt College News

Kuyper Scholars Program

January 25, 2013

Sixty-two students from a wide range of majors participate in Dordt’s scholar’s program known as KSP.

Who are KSP students? They are independent, curious learners who want to interact with other students to discuss big ideas and issues, say the program coordinators Dr. Mary Dengler of the English department and Dr. Carl Fictorie of the chemistry department.

They are highly motivated students looking for scholarly challenges, academically gifted students looking for research opportunities, and pre-professional and socially-minded students preparing for leadership.

Tim Martin, a physics major from Sioux City, Iowa, was drawn to KSP to be challenged to read, think deeply about, and write on non-science issues and ideas. Peter Kuipers, a music major from Platte, South Dakota, wanted to improve his writing skills, and his brother, who had been in KSP, suggested that it would help him do so.

“The superb scholarship and the freedom to explore what interested me kept me in,” he says.

“I liked the idea of going deeper into subjects that interest me,” says senior Lisa Young, a linguistics and Spanish major from Anaheim, California. Young did most of her KSP projects on fiction authors such as George Orwell, Albert Camus, and Juan Rulfo.

Incoming students begin the program by taking the rigorous four-credit course KSP, titled Rhetoric and Christian Scholarship. They read works by classical world scholars, prepare papers, participate in conversations, give presentations, and lead seminars on ideas and issues they confront in their learning. They also read a variety of books and articles written by Reformed Christian scholars to understand what a Christian worldview might look like. In the process, students become immersed in the world of ideas and in how a Christian view of the world can make a difference in how they think about those ideas.

“I loved the focus on serving God in all areas and learning what that means,” says Young. “Before, I thought that to really serve God you had to do one of those obviously Christian jobs. It was freeing to learn about serving God in all different sorts of ways and professions.”

“The strength of the KSP program is its holistic view toward all studies, that all career paths are ways to serve the Lord and do his will in life,” says sophomore Dorothy De Boer, a psychology major from Selkirk, Ontario. “I find it has shaped me as a student and as a person, helping me assess situations more critically. I look at situations as learning experiences and chances to work in the kingdom.”

Martin, who was familiar with Calvinism but not Kuyper, says that while he doesn’t agree with everything he’s learned about Kuyperian Calvinism, he especially likes its focus on every square inch of creation as being under God’s sovereignty. As a physics major, he finds it has helped him avoid pitting the importance of saving souls against taking seriously the material world God created.

Everyone in the program agrees that being in KSP is demanding, especially the first semester.

“I would recommend it to people who want to get as much learning as they can out of their college experience,” says Young. “It does require a lot of work because you write lots of papers, but it’s a good opportunity to have academic discussions on many different topics.” 

“It’s difficult, challenging, and exhausting, but the benefits are tremendous,” adds Dirk Oudman, a political science major from Wheatfield, Indiana. “I learned how to write good papers, how to create arguments, and how to articulate my positions more effectively. Participating in KSP discussions helped me clarify my positions on important topics.”

Lael (Radde) de Boer, a senior education/English major from Cologne, Minnesota, describes KSP as “a learning community that is about contemplating and critically thinking about all different facets of life.”

Kuipers offers an image to describe how he thinks about KSP: “KSP is like a strong cup of coffee. You drink it in and, though it surprises you and seems too intense at the beginning, it wakes you up—brightening your senses. Soon, you realize that you can concentrate in ways you didn’t know were possible before. You go back for more, only to discover that others are around the pot sharing in the experiences and knowledge.”

Both de Boer and Kuipers point out something else valuable about the program: the intellectual community it creates and the opportunity such a community offers to students who want to engage the world of ideas. In fact, many say that sense of camaraderie keeps them in the program even when they feel overwhelmed with work.

“In KSP, you’re stretched to really think about the world around you instead of just letting ideas and information overtake you,” says de Boer. “It draws together people who love to think critically, analyze, and dig deeper into topics.”

“Sharing such intense classes together brings KSP students together in special ways,” adds Oudman.

“Some of my closest friends are in the program,” says Young, and De Boer notes that her KSP friends motivate her to keep up the work.

But almost all KSP scholars admit that a significant reason they entered and stay in the program are the scholarship funds attached to it. Each student accepted into KSP receives a $2,000 academic scholarship. 

“I was drawn by the scholarship, but I stay in because I enjoy the opportunity to write papers on topics outside my major,” says Oudman. In the process of researching, Oudman says, “I learned such things as the incredible amount of aid that is given to Israel every year and about the amount of food wasted in the production of ethanol.”

“The program’s worth is in challenging participants and helping them get more from their education. I appreciate belonging to a community that is always ready to sit down and discuss the symbolism of popular movies or analyze the values of micro-lending as a means of fighting poverty,” says de Boer.

“It’s helped me develop a logical mind and critical thinking skills,” says Martin.

De Boer says, “I’ve been challenged to seek answers to questions I have never bothered to think about before.”

Kuipers adds, “Through KSP, I’ve gained a new perspective on thinking; I've gained analytical tools that many don’t have, and I’ve gained good friends who share my love of ideas.”


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