NEWS & EVENTS
Dordt College News
May 13, 2010
It’s what college prepares students to do: move on
So, even though there are always some tearful goodbyes by both those leaving and those staying, it’s a time of celebration.
This year, as in every other, family and friends gathered to send graduates off to the next stage of their lives. Where each graduate will be next year, no one knows, but professors and professional staff have tried to do everything they could to prepare students for the transition.
Some students know exactly what career they want to pursue from the day they arrive on campus; others take time getting to that point. A few leave unsure. But for all, the door to Chris DeJong’s office is open. DeJong is the Director of Career Services and Calling, and his approach to his job grows out of his Reformed understanding of vocation.
“We’ve all been given gifts, and we’re all called to serve,” he says. “Our task is to be faithful to God’s call and find where these two meet.” He points to a book by Lee Hardy titled Fabric of Faithfulness as a helpful resource, noting that some students read it in the senior capstone course Calling, Task, and Culture.
Many students have a rudimentary understanding of this concept, he notes, yet feel a tension between it and the pragmatic cultural assumption that one goes to college to get a better job and earn more money. In his conversations with students, he helps them sort out this tension.
“People are the most satisfied in their work when they can use their gifts to meet needs in society,” DeJong says. He finds that conversations about gifts and interests as ways to serve take a burden from many students. As a result, their education becomes less a pragmatic means to an end and more a way to prepare for what they want and feel called to.
DeJong meets with anyone who wants help thinking about their future plans. He sometimes starts with a college catalog, asking them to cross off majors that have no appeal for them. They move through a conversation about gifts, interests, and needs that helps students narrow their choices. DeJong then encourages them to take courses in majors that seem most interesting to them.
“I’m not opposed to using tests to determine where students’ interests lie, but I’ve found that a directed conversation often gets us there quicker,” he says. He feels that test results are often perceived as a prescription for what a person should do, but knows it’s not that simple. Test results can confirm and make one think about new possibilities, but they do not give the one answer. Many students leave his office more satisfied with a conversation that guides them through their interests, gifts, and needs because it helps them think about what they are interested in.
“Students do best when they feel passionately about what they are learning,” he says, citing the example of one student who came to college because it was the expected next step in his education. He admitted to being completely unmotivated, and by the end of first semester, he was on probation with a GPA of 1.5. The threat of losing thousands of dollars in scholarships plus weekly meetings with DeJong to talk about what he wanted from his education brought his GPA back to over 3.0. He’s working hard and enjoying his studies.
Other students DeJong meets are very motivated but still benefit from DeJong’s approach and expertise. Brent and Becca Van Schepen appreciated their meetings with DeJong as they planned where they would go following graduation.
“He was extremely helpful,” says Brent, who, through a series of mock interviews in which DeJong portrayed different kinds of interviewers, learned how to respond and how he should present himself. Because DeJong routinely works with all education majors, Becca found out how helpful it was to have help creating a resume and participating in mock interviews. She encouraged Brent to take advantage of DeJong’s expertise as well. The Van Schepens, who initially thought they might teach oversees, in part as a result of their interactions with DeJong, have decided that Brent will serve in a business setting closer to home and Becca will look for a teaching job nearby.
Do students have a harder time deciding on a career path and life direction today? DeJong doesn’t know, but one thing is certain: They have more choices than in decades past. Sometimes sorting out those options with someone is just what they need.
DeJong recalls asking his father what made him decide to become an engineer. His dad replied, “My parents told me ‘you should become an engineer.’” DeJong isn’t sure it happens that way much anymore, although he knows that parents and family members often play a role in pointing out strengths. He’s been happy to have had such a role for many of this year’s graduating seniors. For some he’s spent hours in conversation, for others he’s coached them on resume writing and done mock interviews. For some who are undecided about a major, he’s served as advisor; for others he’s simply offered information that they can use as they wish. For all, he wishes this year’s graduates God’s blessing as they move on.
Joel Veldkamp expects to be teaching English at the Episcopal Training Center in Cairo, Egypt, next year. He’ll also be learning Arabic. The position allows him to spend another year in a culture and with a people he came to love during his semester on the Middle East Studies Program (MESP).
“I always wanted to study abroad, and I’m captivated by the Middle East,” he says. Palestinian Christians have been an inspiration to him, and the MESP did a good job of immersing him in the culture.
“I’ve reimagined so many Bible stories after living in the area—like the Christmas story and its setting.” Living in the Middle East also made him see the world differently.
“I’ve learned to see politics less as an American or as a conservative and more as a Christian,” he says, noting that was not the case when he came to college.
Following his year in Cairo, Veldkamp hopes to attend graduate school to study international relations. He’s been interested in politics since the 2000 election when he was in middle school, but his time abroad has made him see the complexity of today’s world and understand that different people see issues differently. He still plans to follow his long-held dream of writing, whether that is about politics, world events, or even fiction. (See his article titled “The Heights” in the April issue of Perspective: A Journal of Reformed Thought (www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=6516)
Hani Yang, Lord willing, will join the Los Ange
les non-profit agency Good Neighbors. The organization sponsors children from Africa and Latin America, and Yang, who speaks Spanish, will help manage the financial support the organization receives to help children.
A communication major with a digital media emphasis, Yang has wanted to work for a nonprofit agency since high school. While on the Los Angeles Film Studies Program last semester, she interviewed for the position and was impressed with their compassionate approach. She begins the week after graduation.
The daughter of Korean missionaries in Mexico, Yang came to Dordt for digital media because she wanted to make documentaries. She’s learned that she enjoys the production and management aspect of working with and for people more than the technical media production.
Yang, who plans eventually to go to graduate school—and then maybe to seminary, says “I want always to learn and to live what I believe.” She admits that she was tempted to take another major to stay at Dordt where she’s been very involved in clubs and committees as well as events like Justice Week. She appreciates the fact that through both her classes and her extracurricular activities, she’s learned to think discerningly about the way she’ll live her life in the years ahead.
Daniel Den Boer
Daniel Den Boer will enroll in the Master’s of Theological Studies Program at Duke University next fall. Den Boer, whose goal is to teach theology on the collegiate or university level rather than study theology to become a pastor, was looking for a program that would expose him to the work of a wide range of theological perspectives.
Den Boer’s plan to teach theology has taken him along a winding path. He began college as a secondary education history major with a theater arts minor. He soon decided that he enjoyed learning history more than he thought he’d enjoy teaching it, so he dropped his education major. Then he took Theology 101.
“It was the most interesting course I had ever taken,” he says. He dropped his theater minor and added a theology minor. After more courses, he changed his major from history to theology and added philosophy as a minor.
“Theology and philosophy talk about life as we experience it, providing a vision and helping you make sense of things,” he says. He believes it is relevant for living, even though some disparage its practicality.
“They give a framework for thinking and so are relevant for a wide range of jobs,” he says.
Michaela Groot will teach middle school humanities at Sekolah Pelita Harapan in Jakarta, Indonesia, next fall.
“This opportunity is truly a dream come true for me,” she says. “For years I have felt God calling me to teach middle school and to consider teaching in Asia.”
Groot knew she wanted to be a teacher before she came to Dordt, yet she says she came with an open mind, eager to experience new things. Last fall, she did some research on schools in other parts of the world and felt a pull towards Asia. Teaching in Nicaragua this past semester reaffirmed her desire to teach in a culture different than her own.
“Throughout the past four years, I have been challenged to think about what it means to be a Christian in our world today and how, as a teacher, I have a huge responsibility to demonstrate and encourage Christ-like living,” she says. “I have been challenged to think about what I believe and to more fully understand those who think differently than I do.” In addition to her semester in Nicaragua, Groot has traveled to France as a part of her French minor and to Colorado with PLIA.
“It will feel wonderful to walk in the graduation ceremony and finally say that I am a teacher. I am very excited about the plans God has for my future.”
Kalen Van Maanen
Kalen Van Maanen may have benefitted from the current poor economy. He’ll begin work in June for the Office of the Comptroller of Currency as an assistant national bank examiner. Based in Denver, he’ll travel around the western United States, visiting banks to make sure they are following the rules and regulations prescribed for them.
Van Maanen, like many entering freshmen, did not declare a major when he enrolled, but by taking a variety of courses and talking to friends and professors, he found he enjoyed studying finance.
He credits his professors with instilling in him the conviction that being a Christian affects everything he does—he can’t ignore it or compromise his beliefs and, in fact, it drives his commitment to help ensure a safe and sound financial system.
Kristina De Graaf
Kristina De Graaf has taken a position as an auditor with Ernst & Young, LLP in Des Moines. An internship with EY in Minneapolis last summer led to the permanent job offer. Although she wasn’t even sure about her major when she came to college, she says she’s been blessed with great opportunities and experiences that helped prepare her for this position.
The experience was so much more than she expected that she finds it difficult to explain the many ways she’s grown these last four years. Her college experiences and opportunities have been many: Concert Choir, a semester in the Netherlands, a service trip to Belize, PLIA, small group Bible studies, and years chock-full of unforgettable memories.
“I am so thankful that God brought me here for these years. There were so many opportunities to grow academically, professionally, spiritually, etc. While some roll their eyes every time they hear a mention of “every square inch,” I am thankful for a university whose philosophy is to prepare students in every way they can for a life of service to God. And the deeply Christian friends I have made here have made this experience invaluable to me.
I’m also grateful for the small things—for professors who pray before class or exams, for the ethical dilemmas we discuss, for the opportunity to serve on committees with professors or go on small trips together. I’m grateful for faculty and staff who do more than just go a little out of their way in order to truly get to know us and join with us in pursuing our hopes, ambitions, and dreams. I am who I am because of so many strong college friends, challenging classes, and dedicated professors.
Like so many others, De Graaf feels both excitement and sadness as she graduates.