A campus-wide project, called “Faith, Work & Learning: Kuyper College Faculty Collaborative
Inquiry”,will be supported by a grant from the Work Colleges Consortium, a group of nine liberal arts colleges promoting the purposeful integration of Work-Learning-Service while helping to reduce the cost of education.
The grant application process was led by Dr. Tim Howerzyl, assistant professor of theological studies and director of Kuyper’s graduate programs.
He said he was thrilled to learn the upcoming project was going to be funded, and he can’t wait to bring faculty, staff and students together to get to work on something he said is foundational to the College.
“We became a federally recognized Work College in the summer of 2021,” he said. “And both prior to and subsequent to that time, we’ve been considering what it means for us to integrate work and an understanding of work into our life as a College as well as in the student learning experience. The faculty have recognized that the success of this integration depends in significant measure on our own development of our understanding of work, so we decided to undertake a collaborative research project that would foster this understanding through individual research, writing, conversation, curricular development and presentation.”
Kuyper President Dr. Patricia Harris was equally enthusiastic about the grant and what it will mean for the College.
“I am so grateful,” she said. “This grant allows us to fulfill an initiative in our strategic plan of developing and deepening the learning, work and service opportunities for students through the implementation of a theology of work within our academic curriculum. I look forward to the outcomes of this work for it represents the dedication and excellence of our faculty and will serve all of us well as we live out our motto of Ora et Labora or pray and work.”
Howerzyl said that it was important to bring together the whole campus on this project because ultimately Kuyper students will most benefit by a collaborative effort to explore questions surrounding a theology of work, the place of work in the Christian life and what it means to have a Christian perspective on work in the vocations Kuyper students will pursue.
“We anticipate that this project will very much lead to a deepening of our own understanding of work as well as strengthening the connections between work and the learning of our students within their experience at Kuyper,” he said.
Some of that thinking is already happening, he added, including in places like his current Principles and Practices of a Reformed Worldview class but also in other courses and disciplines across the College.
But the upcoming campus-wide project will spark new ideas, he believes.
“I think it’s going to be helpful for us to wrestle with questions about work and theology, the image of God and what does it mean for us to be workers,” he said. “For example, I’m probably going to offer an elective on theology and work at some point in the future, but I haven’t developed that course yet. This project will definitely benefit me, and down the road our students, as I think about such a course.”
Each of the faculty participants will select a research topic related to an aspect of a Christian perspective on work, the theology of work, the place of work within the Christian life or specific aspects of a Christian perspective on work as it is applied to the vocational context of their teaching discipline. Topic choices will be coordinated by Howerzyl to ensure a good variety of topics and engagement in areas of significance for the College.
“Once the topic choices are finalized, each faculty member will undertake a research project on their topic, gathering resources, reading and writing a paper on their topic,” Howerzyl said. “These papers will then be presented at meetings of the group in which the participants will gather around a meal and one of the participants will present the fruit of his or her research to the other participants.”
This will be followed up by conversation engaging the topic, and Howerzyl said one key element of each of these conversations will be a consideration of how the findings of that session can be incorporated into teaching within the course curriculum, as guided by a matrix linking College learning objectives with work college learning objectives.
“Each participant will commit to one specific learning activity or session within one of the courses that they will be teaching during the term of the grant in which they engage the aspect of their research with their students,” he added.
Following these presentations, each faculty member will incorporate the feedback from the conversation in their written paper and prepare it for publication. These papers will then be compiled into a booklet published by the College and made available as a paper booklet as well electronically on the College website.
“We hope that this booklet can be catalytic for ongoing conversations about the nature of work, and useful for promoting Kuyper’s identity as a work college as well as the faculty’s reflection on the role of work in our lives as well as in the vocational understanding of our students,” Howerzyl said.
Even before the booklet is published though, the fruit of the faculty engagement with these topics will also be presented in the weekly Thursday morning Ora Et Labora (Pray and Work) community gathering and webcast hosted by the College.
Another component of faculty engagement with the integration of faith, work and learning will be consideration of this topic at a faculty retreat in August 2024. Each faculty member of the College will receive a book selected by the grant participants which the faculty will read and discuss at the retreat.
Meanwhile, Kuyper students will benefit along the way at every step of the project, Howerzyl said. Library Work College students will assist the faculty in the researching of specific topics, ordering materials for the library and in cataloging the acquired materials. Other selected students will work side-by-side with Kuyper faculty in the research and writing processes as research assistants, including the opportunity to be listed as co-authors of material along with the primary faculty member.
“We expect that the research and conversations that are part of this project will bear real and meaningful fruit in the life of Kuyper as it embraces its identity as a faith-based work college,” Howerzyl said.