Getting to Know the New Kids on the Block: Faculty Edition

Matthew Scogin is not the only fresh face to be found on Hope’s campus this year. Recently, the college brought in a crowd of new faculty members in a variety of departments. In an effort to get to know the latest-hires, The Anchor reached out to some of them to learn about their lives inside and outside of the classroom. Below, five new faculty members share their insights. Make sure to say ‘hello’ to new staff around campus and welcome them to the Hope family. Here’s to the start of a great year!


Dr. Natalia Gonzalez-Pech, Assistant Professor of Chemistry


Professor Greg Lookerse, Assistant Professor of Art and Design


Dr. Jordan VanHemert, Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies


Professor Eric Van Tassell, Assistant Professor of Lighting and Sound Design


Dr. Zachary Williams, Assistant Professor of Physics


What is something special about teaching at Hope?


(Gonzalez-Pech): “I decided to come to Hope College because of its students. I believe you all have an honest desire to grow; not only in your professional development but also as human beings. Being able to see students evolving is one of my biggest privileges.”


(Lookerse): “Teaching Art and Design in the context of the Christian faith is a new and unique experience for me. It allows me to explicitly intertwine my pedagogical discipline and my faith.”


(VanHemert): “I love teaching at Hope because of the rich tradition of rigorous academics situated in an environment in which faculty walk alongside each individual student in their path to become better individuals. To be a part of this is truly something special.”


(Van Tassell): “I actually graduated from Hope with a degree in theater, so for me one of the special things about this job is how exciting it is for me to give back to a community I’ve cared about for a long time. I’m proud of the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in the past decade-and-a-half or so and I’m thrilled that I get to share that information with current Hope students.”


(Williams): “Being in an atmosphere that so effectively merges rigorous academics and genuine Christian faith, while allowing space for those who disagree or are unsure, is quite remarkable. I love that Hope espouses Christian values without enforcing any sort of official faith statement from students or faculty, allowing for a sincere pursuit of truth for anyone that is willing. That pursuit ideally is at the core of all academics, I’m glad to be a part of a place that supports it.”


If you were doing something other than teaching, what would it be?


(Gonzalez-Pech): “As a kid I wanted to be an anthropologist. At some point in high school I was thinking about being a writer or a psychologist.”


(Lookerse): “My artistic studio is a dual focus. It allows me to practice what I preach in class and if I wasn’t teaching then I would be trying to find another way to do the same things I do now. Mentor, educate, create and contemplate.”


(VanHemert): “Nothing. As I often tell my students, this is the best job in the world.”


(Van Tassell): “My most recent employer was The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center in Florida where I served as their lighting director and resident lighting designer….We had a space to support touring shows ranging from Broadway shows, to classic rock bands, to country artists, to dance shows, magicians, and smaller theater performances. I got to work with some phenomenal acts. We also had a smaller studio theater space where we worked with our internal team to create full theater productions of our own. It was a pretty special job.”


(Williams): “I’ve always been fascinated with languages, so studying as many as I could effectively and work as a linguist or translator. ”


What is your favorite book/movie/podcast?


(Gonzalez-Pech): “Les Misérables” 


(Lookerse): “The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky.” 


(VanHemert): “Effortless Mastery by Kenny Werner”


(Van Tassell): “I love the podcasts put out by the McElroy Family. Specifically, I am a big fan of “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” and “The Adventure Zone.” I’ve listened to every episode of both show multiple times.”


(Williams): “The Lord of the Rings trilogy easily takes the cake here.” (books/movies)


What is something important you’ve learned in your teaching/academic experience?


(Dr. Gonzalez-Pech): “I always remember one of the phrases from one of my first college professors, ‘you don’t have to have all the answers but you should know where to look for them’.”


(Lookerse): “Humility. Realize that every class, lecture, demo, critique and experience is an opportunity to learn something. If only you have ears to hear.”


(VanHemert): “Something that I have learned as a student but continue to improve as a professor is time management. The time that I have to practice or compose music is precious, so I have learned to make every minute count.”


(Van Tassell): “I think one of the most important things you can learn in academia is time management. Learn to prioritize what is important and when. Don’t let things fall through the cracks, but learn how to not stress yourself out balancing all of the demands on your time.”

(Williams): “People express their knowledge in different ways. Some people are great test takers, some people are great at hands-on experience, some people are great presenters. Effective teaching means giving students a variety of ways through which to express their knowledge, something I definitely continue to work at and improve on. ”

Bella Lemus ('22) is a Staff Writer at the Anchor.

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