Emma Bennett—Staff Writer
Over the past year, authors, mathematicians, and worship leaders have visited Dordt University and graced the stage of the B.J. Haan Auditorium as part of the First Mondays series. Lately, though, departments across campus have invited guests related to their own area of study.
The English department recently invited writer and alumnus Sara De Waal and fantasy novelist Jeffery Overstreet. Howard Schaap, Professor of English, had met Overstreet years ago during his MFA residency and recruited him to speak at his university.
Overstreet teaches writing and film criticism classes at Seattle Pacific University, but he frequently speaks at universities.
“It’s been one of my favorite outcomes of being published,” Overstreet said. “I even got to go to the Netherlands to talk about movies.”
Though Overstreet interacted with students from multiple courses and presented a lecture on The Secret of Kells, the university did not advertise him as a First Mondays speaker.
According to Channon Visscher, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Planetary Sciences, Dordt is not discontinuing the program, but workshopping alterations to the speaker series.
“What we’ve been trying now, this is the first year we’ve tried it, is having First Mondays events in the fall,” Visscher said. “We’re trying this new program: The Andreas Center Campus Speaking Series.”
In addition to directing public scholarship, running the academic press, and publishing Pro Rege and In All Things, the Andreas Center hosts First Mondays.
“It’s great that we have the First Mondays as a campus-wide event,” Visscher said. “It’s a very public campus conversation. But we also want to encourage more conversations that are more focused in their discipline.”
While the English department invited authors, the worship department focused their attention on the last semester’s gospel choir.
“It has been a very isolated event,” Visscher said about criticism of First Mondays. “We’ll have some great speaker come in, they’ll give their talk, and then they’ll leave.”
Through adding major-related specificity, the Andreas Center Campus Speaking Series hopes to revitalize First Mondays.
“When I think about my undergraduate years, and when I think about the voices I learned from, the first people that come to mind came from the outside,” Overstreet said. “Because they had experiences in other places and other communities and other churches, they brought in understanding that seemed strange and new and exciting to me.”
Overstreet heard from authors Madeline L’Engle, Frederick Buechner, and Lucy Shaw while he attended college.
“I hope that my experiences give me something to bring into places like the Dordt community and shine a different light on something, or give people a different lens to look through,” Overstreet said. “The weird irony [of visiting schools] is that I end up learning.”