Students do field research in Africa.
Students do field research in Africa.
Author: Marina Cull

Tanner Hoffman ’17, a senior international development and biology double major at Houghton College, was one of four students to present original research at Calvin College’s recent Faith and International Development Conference. Hoffman’s inclusion represents the first time in the event’s 11-year history that undergraduate students were included in the event’s lineup of speakers

His presentation was based on rural village research that he conducted alongside Eli Knapp, assistant professor of biology and intercultural studies, during a semester-long study abroad trip in the 2016 spring semester. As they prepared for publication following their return to the United States, Hoffman and Knapp submitted their work, “Dimensions of development: an assessment of perceptions among rural agropastoral peoples in Tanzania, East Africa,” to the conference in the hopes of gaining constructive feedback. In an unprecedented decision, the conference’s organizers agreed to dedicate a portion of the event to presentations by undergraduate students, including Hoffman and three peers from Eastern University, Calvin College, and Covenant College. "I was in great company with my fellow student speakers, each of whom had valuable insights to share. Being one of four students to present on this stage was a great honor,” says Hoffman.

Following the positive response at the conference, Hoffman and Knapp hope to submit their work to scholarly journals in the next month. They are excited that the reaction to the presentation not only impacted them but also the future of the conference. There was a great exchange of ideas and everybody considered it a great success. Organizers are now hoping to make undergraduate presentations an annual part of the conference. It’s gratifying to realize that Tanner and my Human Ecology students played a key role in this,” says Knapp.

Other Houghton attendees included Ky’Asia Blanchard ’20, Emily Barry ’17, Ashley Carroll ’19 Delaney Connolly ’18, Marina Cull ’17, Sarah Duttweiler ’17, Bethany Elliot ’20, Nathan Helmuth ’19, Ashley Hughes ’18, Teri Koetsier ’18, Grace Lee ’18, Melissa MacLean ’17, Madeleine Malda ’17, Sergio Mata ’19, Amanda Nouvong ’17, Rebekah Potts ’17, Cayleigh Pracht ’17, Bethany Rudolph ’17, and Kara Smith ’18.  

Calvin’s Faith and International Development Conference is an annual three-day event that aims to “educate, inspire and equip students across the country to pursue Christ-centered development,” according to its website. This year the conference focused on the “Power of Hope” and drew hundreds of students and educators, including nearly 20 from Houghton, and numerous prestigious speakers, including Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief, and Jason Fileta, director of Micah Challenge USA, a global Christian campaign to end extreme poverty.