The Voice: Spring 2002
President's Convocation begins second semester
By Sally Jongsma
A new tradition started this year. The Presidents Convocation was inaugurated as a
way to celebrate and begin the second semester. The first speaker was writer
and scholar Nancy Pearcey who spoke on Why Worldview Matters.
Second semester really is a new beginning, says President Carl Zylstra. Increasingly the
campus population changes between semesters. Zylstra is referring to the 100 or more
students who have spent a semester off-campus student teaching or participating in an
off-campus program as well as those who are new transfer students or high
We dont all get together that often as a college community. This is
a good time to do it, he says. We need more formal ways
to celebrate and focus on our mission, and formal events reaffirm the institutions
identity and calling. Having faculty robed puts us in touch with our history
and that of higher education.
It also provides an opportunity to bring in outside speakers who share Dordts
Christian perspective. Historically at Dordt College, the president has given the fall convocation
address, a tradition Zylstra appreciates and considers important. Commencement speakers are usually faculty
members who try to send graduates off with a challenge that stems from
their four years of education at Dordt. Zylstra applauds that tradition too. But
he also sees the need to bring in Christian scholars and authors that
students study and read. The new convocation presents a perfect opportunity.
I think it is valuable for students and faculty to hear and be
encouraged by someone who shares their perspective but is not right in the
middle of this institutions daily work, says Zylstra. He says that he and
those who work with him to choose speakers have made a conscious decision
to look for people who can help students develop Christian perspective in their
Nancy Pearcey was an excellent first Presidents Convocation speaker, Zylstra believes. What she
said about worldview fit so well with the central themes and mission of
our curriculum and reminds us how important that view is for the broader
world. She was inspirational and helped us focus on the task we have
Future speakers will be chosen by the same criteria. Zylstra plans to look
for someone with a reputation for leadership in an academic setting, someone with
a scholarly reputation and a track record of giving leadership in Reformed biblical
perspective, someone who can help us better understand who we are and what
our impact can be, and someone who can speak to the range of
people on campus.
Next years speaker is already selectedRuth Tucker, who presently teaches at Calvin Theological
Seminary. Many students have read her books for courses, and Zylstra is confident
that she will help students understand how to live their faith in a
variety of contexts.
Response to the first Presidents Convocation has been positive. In addition to giving
a well-received presentation, Pearcey presented a model of a woman scholar and demonstrated
an activism and a personal warmth that students and faculty appreciated.
Why Worldview Matters didnt propose such new ideas, but allowed students to hear
foundational ideas in a fresh way from someone outside of the college. Being
validated by someone who is recognized in the broader Christian community is reaffirming,
It reminds me of experiences preachers have, Zylstra says. Some of the central
themes you try to stress get said by a guest minister or speaker
and people buzz about them for days. This wasnt so new, but it
was fresh. Thats what Pearcey did for us.
Students who attended agreed. David Hjelle, a junior engineering major from Fergus Falls,
Minnesota, says that it wasnt so new but that he was reminded of
the importance of worldview and how it affects kids books, movies, and so
many other things that surround us. Senior Amy Vroom, a political science major
from Orland Park, Illinois, says Pearcey gave her insight into how to analyze
everyday things by seeing the worldview that shapes them, and it encouraged her
to see the influence Christians can have in society.
Convocation is a good thing, says Jenny Berkompas, a junior English major from
Sunnyside, Washington. We really need to start the semester with something thought-provoking. I
never get tired of hearing about worldview. I never actually realized how special
a worldview type of thought is.
She encouraged us as Reformed Christians to get out there and rub elbows
with people, says Gerrit Wieringa, a freshman history major from McCook, Illinois. We
need to engage culture. She reminded us of that.