Karissa Van Surksum

You'll have a better experience on this website using a secure, up-to-date browser. Click here for information and instructions about updating.


Harrisburg, South Dakota

Scholarships I Received

  • Louis & Tina Van Dyke History Scholarship
  • Dordt Distinguished Scholar Award
  • Martin Seven Classics Scholarship
  • Robert & Lois Vermeer Endowed Scholarship for History & Soc Sciences
  • Sid & Carol Verdoorn Foundation Teacher Education Scholarship
  • Jill Vander Zee Memorial Scholarship

Favorite Spot On Campus

The booths in the upstairs part of the science building (good for studying :)

Favorite Class

Hist 302: Media and Power (US History after World War 2)

A Concept That Blew My Mind

One concept that absolutely blew my mind (and made me fall in love with studying history) was the holistic approach to studying history that I was taught by the Dordt history professors. History is anything but boring, dry, and factual—history pulls from several academic disciplines, but its overall goal is to learn about the stories, choices, and dynamic patterns of the past. These stories, choices, and patterns fit into that Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration motiff we love to talk about—but it's not just enough to label what parts of history are good and what parts of history are bad. Sure, there's a lot of examples of sin and grace in the past—we can even see sin and grace in our own lives, too. History, then, asks the question (among others), WHY did certain things happen in the past? Our attempts to answer this question (and the questions that come from it) not only inform the choices we should make in the future, but they also give us a framework to understanding the present and the constant balancing act of being an image-bearer of God in a sinful, yet hope-filled, world.

Cool Things I Did At Dordt

In my history classes, we've done many simulations of historical events and places. My favorite one was when we each extensively researched one or two Civil War generals in battles in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas and then walked through these battlegrounds (taking one day for each general), talking about what happened and why. Also because of my history classes, I've been able to present a couple of my research papers at conferences.
Because I've been in Concert Band, I've gotten to go on many tours to see various parts of the US and beyond—last summer right after graduation, we went on tour to Central Europe!

Last summer, I also had the opportunity to be a part of the Ukraine REU, a research project that Dordt Statistics, Psychology, and History professors do over the summer. Part of that project was traveling to Ukraine to get a sense of the culture and people that we would be studying for the summer. I also loved getting to learn about the way social scientists and statisticians go about doing research.

Obstacles I've Overcome

I am a chronic perfectionist and a people-pleaser—a deadly combination that I think many people relate to. I have always been a perfectionist and people-pleaser, and I think I always will be, to a certain extent. So a lot of my obstacles in college, broadly speaking, stemmed from identity issues and finding security in the wrong things, like what I perceive other people think about me or success in music or academics. And I think I will always struggle with this—I wish I could say that my identity issues are all sorted out—but I also think I am at a better place than when I began my time at Dordt. Being at a place where my peers unconditionally love and value each others for who they truly are, where there are opportunities to grow in an organic spiritual community, and where my professors encourage me to say no to things so that I can take care of myself has probably been more beneficial to me than I know. I have learned (and a m consistently needing to remind and internalize) that my identity and value is not found in what I do, but in who I am already—God's beloved child.

Who I Was When I Came To Dordt

When I first arrived, I was no exception to many college freshmen: I was pretty nervous about the mysterious intrigue surrounding the college lifestyle (I'm the oldest), and I wasn't really sure about my major. I think I was most nervous about finding my "place" at college. I had a set and visible identity in high school that I drew a lot of security from, and I was very nervous about not having that identity while also trying to make friends when I hadn't needed to make friends since I was in early elementary school!

How Dordt Impacted Me

I have appreciated living in an organic spiritual community. In other words, chapel, Bible studies, and other worship gatherings are great, but I've also had excellent conversations and discussions with my peers and professors outside of these organized activities—maybe because of a speaker who came to chapel or class, maybe because of a shared communal tragedy or what we read about in the news, maybe because of experiencing similar real life, every-day stressers. I believe these conversations and relationships have been formative to who I've become—and I can't imagine my life without these relationships that I've made at Dordt.

I could talk more about who I've become in specific roles that I've focused on in college—learner, musician, teacher, roommate, friend, to name a few—but I think they all go back to the aforementioned conversations and subsequent relationships that I have made because of my time at Dordt. These people have all had significant impacts on who I have and am becoming.

What's Next For Me

Getting a job as a history teacher at a middle or high school! (hopefully)
In a few years, I hope to go on to graduate school and get a PhD in history so that I can teach at the college level and continue doing historical research.

What I Would Tell Prospective Students

I think the best advice that I received when considering where to go for college was, "find a place where it feels like 'home.'" Sure, Dordt has a good education program as well as a strong music department (the things I was looking for), but I think the thing that has mattered the most to me throughout college is that I've been at a place that both makes me feel comfortable enough to be more vulnerable as well as challenged to grow—in other words, Dordt has been a place that I can thrive in.

How Dordt Helped Me Do More

My experience at Dordt has not necessarily been breezily easy—and I wouldn't want it to be. There have been awesome things, sure, but there's also been challenges. And both of things are not going to stop once I graduate. So I think what I have gained from my experiences at Dordt are tools for navigating the good things and the challenges. By learning to process and deal with real life things in a place where I am surrounded by loving people who love God and his Word, I am better able to do the same for others through teaching in some way and whatever else I am called to be in the future.

That's not to say that I am now going to be a perfect servant of Christ because I've been at Dordt—I'm sure I'll make mistakes. But I'm learning that there's grace for myself and for others. In guiding others towards God's truth, which has been shown to me in various ways at Dordt, I'll be Doing More.