NEWS & EVENTS
Dordt College News
May 9, 2009
The Voice asked faculty to recommend some senior students who might be willing to reflect on their four years at Dordt College. The following graduates are a few of the many suggested. They represent different academic majors, genders, college involvements, and plans for the future. Dordt College is proud to call them graduates.
Robin Seifert is an English major from Prosser, Washington, who hopes to use what she’s learned to get involved in something she’s passionate about—promoting justice for people around the world. With minors in sociology and international relations, her interest in justice has grown throughout her college years, but it was stoked during the semester she spent during her junior year on a study abroad program at the University of Wales. In addition to taking four courses, she participated in an internship with the Fair Trade Foundation, whose office is in Bangor, Wales. Wales is trying to become a fair trade country, and Seifert helped with the campaign to encourage businesses to use Fair Trade products and practices.
While her semester abroad helped cement her passion, her four years at Dordt gave her the context for developing it. She points to her Theology 101 instructor, who pushed her and her classmates to think about what they believed and not just believe what they were expected to believe.
“In high school, I took information and accepted it. In college, I learned to process, challenge, interpret, and embrace what I believe,” she says. “I’ve changed 180 degrees since high school.” She says that process has helped her move from being incredibly shy to gaining the confidence to act on what she believes.
“I wasn’t aware of so many of the things I’ve learned in my classes,” she says. She believes that one of the most important things students like her can do is become aware of their world and of different points of view regarding its challenges—and then act on the knowledge gained. Reading is a crucial component in that process.
Seifert, who traces some of her inspiration to the RA of her residence hall wing in her freshman year, says her goal is to work for a non-profit organization, helping promote justice through writing and advocacy. She also expects to volunteer with organizations whose mission is to promote justice and show compassion.
Chris Vogel, who today hails from Luverne, Minnesota, but grew up in Arkansas, says the most important thing he may have learned in college is a passion for learning.
“I’ve always been curious. Today, I have a strong sense that while I haven’t really mastered anything, I have the tools to keep learning,” he says. Vogel admits that he hasn’t always been the perfect student, but when inspired by an idea or person, he’s thrown himself into his studies. A philosophy major and English minor, his passion is music, and he’s one of only thirty percent of applicants accepted to the contemporary music program at the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts for next year. A songwriter and guitar player, originally classical guitar, Vogel’s inspiration has come from the ideas he’s grappled with in his courses and through the professors who mentored him.
“My philosophy professors have been profound spiritual mentors,” he says, also citing English and music professors who challenged and inspired him and with whom he made a point to take as many courses as he could. Studying authors like John Updike and Soren Kierkegaard have inspired some of his song lyrics.
“Sometimes, I’ve written the beginnings of a song in class. Where I’ve really learned, though, is after class in conversation with professors,” he says.
Philosophy has become a tool for Vogel as he tries to figure out how life fits together, giving him a way to think about life challenges that he thinks need to be talked about. He wonders if most Christians today have too little sense of what it is to be a sinner or of how much they need grace.
“Even growing up [in the Christian Reformed Church] I didn’t really come to understand the comprehensiveness of a Reformed worldview and its implication for living,” he says. “My music needs to relate to life, and I think the Reformed tradition helps me to understand human experience and see how things work and how they don’t.”
“This place is a strange oasis for creativity,” he says of Dordt College. “It offers an environment that allows you to listen and think.” Even though Vogel has the latest high-tech music equipment, he is skeptical of the role technology has taken in the lives of people today.
“Being plugged into mainstream culture and media sucks you into too many things that really don’t matter. Maybe it’s better to prioritize and focus so that we have time to be passionate about what’s important in life,” he says.
Vogel is working toward a career in music performance—and maybe teaching. He would like to bring his Christian worldview to North American culture through the songs he writes and the music he performs. He knows it will not be easy.
“If we say we are serving God in everything we do,” he says, “we have to be very conscientious as we try to do that.” That is his goal.
Katiegrace Youngsma had a plan when she came to college—she says she always has a plan—but she thinks differently about her “plans” after four years of college. She was going to be an engineer—and she still might. She graduated with a bachelor’s of science in engineering this spring and will enter a master’s program in engineering next fall. But she’s also open to other things.
“In high school, your definition of what you want to do is usually connected to what you like or how something affects you,” she says. After four years of college, she’s learned that many things are much more important than her personal likes and dislikes. “It’s part of the process of maturing and becoming more aware of the world and its needs,” she says.
And it is intimately connected to worldview. “The word can become a cliché, but the concept is real and helpful, and I can’t think of a better word to describe how we think about our world. Reformed Christians aren’t the only ones who use it today,” she adds.
Youngsma points specifically to her Kuyper Scholars Program courses and engineering courses on solar energy and heat transfer as helping her think about how to connect the science she’s learning to everyday life.
“I think about my worldview every time I open and close my blinds in my apartment. It’s given me the tools to understand how I make choices and decide how to live, and functions very naturally in my life and in the impact I want to have on the world around me.”
Youngsma believes that Christians shouldn’t be complacent and ignorant about the world, and its people and the challenges they face. “If you don’t know about human trafficking or the nitty gritty of poverty you’re not likely to help bring change,” she says.
As she moves on, Youngsma is looking forward to working within her community in New England—attending town meetings, having a voice about issues that affect people’s lives. She still has a plan—going to graduate school, but today says it’s okay if it doesn’t happen. Maybe she’ll get involved with renewable energy, maybe law enforcement, maybe social justice. But unlike when she came, she now feels ready to branch out from a more protected Christian environment and get involved in the community of which she’ll be a part.
Johnathon Nagel is an agriculture major with a Spanish minor from Three Rivers, Michigan, who grew up on a gladiola farm. Soft-spoken and reflective, he’s looking forward to putting what he’s learned into practice, even if it’s not completely clear what that means in every detail.
“I can’t say that I learned a Reformed world and life view in college, because I grew up with one. But it did reinforce my commitment, and it affected how I view my vocation,” Nagel says. “Being here has allowed me to better appreciate that everything I do falls under the lordship of Christ. That adds joy to my life, and through that realization, I believe God is glorified.”
Nagel has asked himself how his actions as a farmer will be any different from someone who isn’t a Christian. A class in agro-ecology had a profound effect on him and gave him some beginning answers to his question.
“That class made the thought of farming even more exciting to me,” he says, adding that he’s learned that farming requires more than hard work. It requires wisdom to understand how God created things to work together and that such knowledge has implications for the farming practices he uses. “As Christians, we need to use our minds to study to see if the way we are using God’s world is the best way and most glorifying to him.”
Nagel notes that as people learn new things and try to make changes, some conflict seems inevitable.
Farming and the life that goes with it is what all agriculture majors love—including him. A semester in Nicaragua, working with Christian farmers, helped him see that his focus should be on how Christian farmers can learn from each other and work together. Nagel says the experience made him look at his culture and life through different eyes, helping him see that some practices aren’t necessarily biblical.
“Asking what would be most glorifying to God is where we should start,” he says. “Then, when we do disagree, it will hopefully spare us from attacking each other and instead try to work together.” He believes he has a deepened understanding of what’s important to him as a farmer and how it might affect how he lives.
“Every farm plays a role in exposing the beauty in creation or hiding it. I will have to make many conscious decisions when I go into the field,” he says, listing such things as soil erosion and productivity, technology and ecology. “I hope to use what I’ve learned—and continue to learn as I work. It’s time to go from thinking about it to doing it.”