Hope College receives $ 2.5 million gift to prepare students to become global health leaders

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HOLLAND – Students at Hope College are preparing to become global health leaders “to meet a lasting and universal need” with a new multidisciplinary program, officials say.

The Global Health Program, which began this fall, was created with a recent donation of $ 2.5 million from Sawyer Products and the Sawyer Foundation. The company, which has a global mission, manufactures water filtration products, insect repellents, sunscreens and exterior protection.

For several years, Sawyer worked with teachers and students at Hope to solve water quality problems on a global scale.

The new program involves 12 university departments in natural and applied sciences, humanities and social sciences.

“With this gift, I hope students will prepare not only to become leaders in global health, but to actively pursue life-changing research,” Hope President Matthew Scogin said in a press release. of September 16 announcing the program.

“Before they even graduate from Hope, they will have transformed the lives of others through their work in and outside the classroom. We are very grateful to the Sawyer Foundation for its support.

The donation specifically funds the development of an academic program, a comprehensive course on experiential learning and project-based learning by interdisciplinary teams engaged in fieldwork, research or humanitarian entrepreneurship.

Additionally, the program emphasizes applied learning and impact through classroom instruction, collaborative research between faculty and students, and building bridges beyond campus for the benefit of the community. local and global community health.

Some important program goals allow students to partner with organizations and programs, develop lasting relationships with the communities they serve, and engage students in experiential learning aligned with their level of education.

According to Hope, the donation allows the college to improve its program without tapping into existing resources. College officials say the giveaway also complements the recently launched Hope Forward initiative, where Hope seeks to fund the tuition fees of each student while continuing to deliver the program.

Related: Hope College Announces Free ‘Pay-It-Forward’ Tuition Fee Model Funded by Alumni Donations

According to founder and president Kurt Avery, a 1974 graduate of Hope, support for the global health program was natural for Sawyer Products and The Sawyer Foundation.

As a manufacturer of water filtration systems, Sawyer prioritizes donating its filters to communities in need and funding research. Additionally, through Hope’s program, the plan is to train new generations to make a difference.

“At Sawyer, we are more than an outdoor company,” Avery said in the press release. “Our commitment includes creating disease-free water for communities around the world, and know that this kind of change can’t wait. What makes this new program so exciting is the immediate relevance of the students’ work. Their efforts will be strengthened where health problems are most pressing. “

Officials say the global health program, which includes a new interdisciplinary and interdivisional academic major and minor, builds on some of its natural science components on experience gained in previous work with Sawyer and other research on water quality conducted in Hope over the past two decades.

For example, the wastewater testing program that the college put in place last year to monitor the campus for the presence of COVID-19. The test program received a state grant of $ 7.5 million to serve several other communities as well.

Related: Hope College Secures $ 7.5 Million State Grant To Expand COVID-19 Wastewater Testing Program

“Our research team, with extensive experience in water-related projects, was able to quickly establish an effective wastewater monitoring program for COVID-19 at the college. This is currently developing to monitor residents in much of southwest Michigan, ”said Aaron Best, Harrison C. and Mary L. Visscher professor of genetics and chair of the biology department.

“The pandemic has put our team’s international projects on hold, which have partnered with communities to obtain safe drinking water. Sawyer’s donation will help us renew these projects in the coming months and provide resources to provide students with excellent experiential learning opportunities as the global health agenda grows.

The program draws not only on work on the pandemic, but on the expertise of more than a dozen departments at the college, including biology, communication, geological and environmental sciences, mathematics and statistics, nursing, political science, social work and religion, as well as study abroad programs.

Hope will hire a director of global health to coordinate existing activities and foster expansion and develop new external partnerships.

“Hope College is just ideally placed to do this,” said Jonathan Peterson, acting dean of natural and applied sciences. “We have such strength in our natural sciences. We have such strength in our health professions. We offer many international opportunities. And that corresponds to our mission.

This mission – as expressed in Hope’s mission statement – “is to educate students for a life of leadership and service in a global society through academic and extracurricular programs of recognized excellence in liberal arts and in the context of the historical Christian faith. ”

“If ever there was a need for global health awareness and global health education, it’s now,” said Peterson. “Global Health” is the title, but the program will include people globally and people who need access to health care in our own city. “

The college said Sawyer’s relationship with Hope began about five years ago. Since then, officials say the company and its foundation have engaged in faculty-student research teams to test the effectiveness of its filters in developing countries.

The company has subscribed to the college’s Sports Evangelism to Equip Disciples (SEED) program in which “students train communities in other countries to use Sawyer water filters while spreading the gospel” and has held internships for students.

Avery said Sawyer’s commitment goes far beyond the giveaway. For example, he said they will put students in touch with the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) they work with, for opportunities to serve abroad.

He said he was excited about the possibilities of the program model, especially as participating university departments and their students become more and more involved in applying additional skills and perspectives.

“Most of the charities we partner with share the gospel at the same time,” said Avery. “What does this bring to these communities? These are interesting questions to study.

The people in the communities served, he said, are the only ones whose lives he hopes to see transformed. He said you can’t see the amount of need in some communities and not be touched.

Avery said they wanted one of three things to happen for the students involved in the program.

“First, they go there and say, ‘This is where I need to be long term.’ Second, they say, “I would like to come back once in a while” – like a teacher who might be available during the summer. Or three, they say, ‘Even though my training takes me somewhere else, here’s how I can still do something there,’ ”according to Hope’s statement.

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