Jul 1, 2022

Graduate Dinners Become Tradition

Every April, President Erik and Professor of Education Dr. Barb Hoekstra invite upcoming graduates to the Founders Room at their home, where they enjoy a meal, share advice, and chat with students one last time before commencement.

Dordt president reads from the Bible

It’s a bookend experience for students, who, as freshmen, partake in a Core 100 dinner with the Hoekstras. At the graduate dinner, students get a chance to reflect on their two or four years at Dordt and respond to a series of questions:

  • Other than location and weather, if you had a magic wand and could choose to change anything about Dordt, what would you change? What would you keep the same?
  • What are Dordt’s top strengths that you’d share with a prospective student?
  • What should Dordt look like 25 years from now? What should change, and what should never change?

President and Dr. Hoekstra as well as other faculty and staff members write down students’ responses to these questions. President Hoekstra and the leadership team compile and review the notes each year and consider students’ perspectives. Students’ responses have led to such on-campus updates as trayless dining in the Commons, improvements to on-campus wifi, curricular changes, and parking.

“I get to hear valuable feedback from students about their experience at Dordt—both good and bad,” he says. “I think it’s important to hear the ways we as an institution fell short in the students’ minds, as we can find ways to get better in order to seek continuous improvement.”

The most common response to what shouldn’t change at Dordt? The university’s worldview and firm foundation in biblical truths.

Parks Brawand, a senior engineering major, says his group discussed this at length. “At our table, we talked about how the Reformed Christian identity should stay the same. Without it, Dordt wouldn’t have a strong basis. We discussed how our sense of community grows from that; the relationships are so rich here because of Dordt’s identity as a Christian school.”

“It’s encouraging that, during their final weeks at Dordt, students can clearly articulate why it’s so important for Dordt to stay true to our mission and vision, and how the Core Program has brought value to the students’ lives,” adds Hoekstra.

In addition to asking students for their feedback, President and Dr. Hoekstra share some words of wisdom with students.

“We tell students, 'These are 10 things that we think are important or that we’ve learned the hard way,” says President Hoekstra. “We’re not your parents, but we do love you, and as you leave Dordt, these are things we hope you never forget.'”

Brawand most appreciated the last point: that he shouldn’t “buy into the idea that you are the center of the universe.”

“It’s a reminder that, once you graduate, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” he says. “Life isn’t meant to be lived selfishly; it’s to be lived faithfully and in service to God.”

Hannah Vanderhooft, a senior who double-majoring in English and theology, appreciated the encouragement to plug into good Christian community wherever she ends up after Dordt.

“They also talked about being stewards of what we have. Barb mentioned that she thrifts a lot of her clothes, and it’s important for us to be aware of the impact that our possessions have on us.”

It’s been over eight years since the Hoekstras began hosting graduate dinners in their home, and they plan to continue the tradition for years to come.

“Commencement has its place, and I am thankful that I get to shake students’ hands at the B.J. Haan Auditorium, but I want to connect with students one on one when I can, and the graduate dinners provide a chance to do that,” says President Hoekstra.

Sarah Moss ('10)

A picture of campus behind yellow prairie flowers