Calvin University: History and Context
To situate the CPI in its localized context, we will provide a brief overview of Calvin University, its theological underpinnings, and its history of community engagement. Calvin is a private, four-year, baccalaureate university in Grand Rapids, Michigan, affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church. In 2018-2019, Calvin had 3840 students (3746 undergraduate) and a 12-to-l student-to-faculty ratio. Annual tuition costs were $34,600, and room and board fees totaled SI 0,200. Almost all (99%) of Calvin students receive financial aid.
The university' was founded in 1876 as Calvin College and Theological Seminary. In 1884, the school expanded its admissions beyond pastors in training to include aspiring teachers. The curriculum further broadened in 1900 to include prc-professional courses. By 1906, the literary department, which provided four years of preparatory and two years of college work, became known officially as the John Calvin Junior College, a separate entity from Calvin Theological Seminary. In 1920, the institution became a four-year college. In 1931, the school was renamed Calvin College, the name it was known by until 2019 when the college became Calvin University'. The reasons for this evolution to a university' are multifaceted—in part reflecting more accurately what is already true about the institution, such as emerging graduate programs, diverse academic offerings, and research output; in part aligning Calvin’s identification with our global peers for whom the word “university” more accurately describes the identity' of Calvin; and in part to open up new possibilities for structure and practice that can augment its mission.
Calvin University' is situated on the eastern edge of Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan, with a population in 2019 of just under 200,000 and a metropolitan area of just over one million people. According to the Community Research Institute of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, there arc 37 neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.
The geographical origins of Calvin University lie in what is now known as the Eastown neighborhood of Grand Rapids, approximately two miles from the heart of the city. Due to an expanding student population and limited space to grow, in 1956 the college purchased Knollcrest Farm that was outside the Grand Rapids city limits at that time, and by' 1973 had fully transitioned to the Knollcrest campus, three miles east from
Equipping Students for a “Specific Uprising” 189 the former Franklin campus, where it remains today. Calvin’s campus is now on the eastern edge of Grand Rapids; it is a 15-20 minute drive from the downtown of the city, and a 45-minutc drive from the Handion Correctional Facility.
Religious and Theological Context
Calvin is governed by the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC). Although it is difficult to briefly summarize the theological thrust of the CRC, three key concepts emerge as particularly relevant to Calvin and the CPI. The first is sovereignty—that God is sovereign over all of the world, which inspires Reformed Christians to engage with the world, rather than to isolate themselves from it. Second, the CRC emphasizes God’s covenant with humans, holding that even though they may not be faithful in their promises to God, God holds to God’s covenantal love for all of God’s children. Finally, Reformed Christians believe they arc called to engage in and care for God’s kingdom on earth, which is alive and well beyond any one nation, culture, or interest. As such, every culture, community, and academic discipline matters and is a part of God’s kingdom. As an institution committed to the Reformed branch of historic Protestant Christianity, Calvin has resisted labels such as evangelical, preferring instead to think of itself as “confessional,” or guided by Scripture as well as the historic creeds and confessions of the church. This commitment has often been borne out in close partnerships between Calvin faculty and colleagues at Catholic universities, rather than a strong affinity with evangelical and Bible colleges.