Common Ground: Moving Hope Forward

Author: Dr. Heidi E. Kraus (Associate Provost for Academic Affairs)

In her book Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University, Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick offers the following: “Generosity lies in part in the force of the commitments that we make to one another, but commitments that are based on an ethical obligation that endures beyond and outside individual agency. It’s a commitment that we must continually make the choice to renew, but an obligation that persists regardless of our choice. Generosity, in my sense, both dwells in and grows from conversation: a generosity of mind.”

Focusing on conversation, Fitzpatrick highlights the need for generosity to be continually renewed to function. Conversation demands not that we become more giving but that we become more receptive. To inhabit a role that isn’t just about speaking but also about listening, absorbing, and considering what our conversational partners have to say.

Listening, absorbing, considering. These ideas about generous conversations made me think more about our campus community. Specifically, what is the common ground, the fertile soil, that unites us as a community of learners despite our differences? How does common ground contribute to feelings of genuine belonging and deep understanding? How can Hope’s Christian aspirations, Virtues of Public Discourse and Hope Forward pillars serve as this “common ground”? 

These questions are rooted in this year’s Pre-College Conference, “Common Ground: Moving Hope Forward,” held from August 24-27. The Pre-College Conference (PCC) is an annual event for faculty and staff that marks the beginning of the academic year with formal addresses by the President and Provost. For the first time, staff were invited to participate in a luncheon traditionally limited to faculty. Led by leaders of the campus community, breakout sessions on the afternoon of August 24 allowed for faculty and staff to discuss topics of mutual interest, engaging both the curricular and co-curricular programs on issues that included utilizing transparency frameworks to increase learning, formation, and belonging; supporting students with empathy and policy; and hallmarks of belonging and inclusion as they apply to a global campus.

On belonging, Blooming Hope, an art installation curated by Hope Forward Program Coordinator Erin Drews, was simultaneously available for viewing in the Jack H. Miller Lobby. Blooming Hope is about the botanic lifecycle: sowing, growing and eventual giving. It showcases the work of fifty-eight Hope students in the current Hope Forward pilot cohorts. They created block prints as a reflective exercise to consider their strengths, growth and hope for future impact. During their time at Hope College, Hope Forward students receive nourishment for growth to spread the seeds of new life in the world around them through generosity, access and community. 

A theme that resurfaced for me in the sessions and throughout the Pre-College Conference broadly was this: through understanding, acknowledging, and respecting each member of our community and their roles, we can keep moving forward and deliver on our promises to our students. Some may say it’s a lofty goal, and perhaps it is. But in a place called “Hope,” we need big ambitions and generous conversations. With God’s help, we will. This year’s PCC felt like a good step in the right direction.

Photo credit: Hope College


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