Doubling Down on the Arts

In Issue, News, Winter/Spring 2020 by Kate Henreckson

New professors bring momentum and passion to their programs.

While other institutions are downsizing their arts programs, Dordt University is choosing to double down on the arts. Now, thanks in part to the excitement and passion of new faculty, the arts are flourishing at Dordt. Let us introduce you to our newest arts faculty, so you can see for yourself why Dordt’s arts scene is thriving.

Dr. Carrie Groenewold

Dr. Carrie (Spronk, ’06) Groenewold fills four roles at Dordt University. She is associate professor of church music and organ studies, the director of the keyboard department, and the university’s organist. She also holds the Joan Ringerwole Chair of Church Music and Organ Studies, a new endowed chair in the music department.

Groenewold has always felt called to teach.

“It’s a dream for me to be back at Dordt, because I actually started playing the organ during Dordt Discovery Days,” says Groenewold. She continued studying organ and piano at Dordt during high school and majored in Organ Performance and Church Music as a Dordt student. “I’m coming full circle, and it’s an opportunity I never thought could happen in my life.”

Groenewold’s favorite part of her new position is interacting with students, whom she finds to be genuine, motivated, and hardworking. Sometimes, Groenewold explains, there can be a spirit of competitiveness at the performance level. But Dordt students are more driven by deep-seated desires to glorify God.

“It’s a calling to develop the gifts that we’ve been given,” says Groenewold.

“There’s genuine support for each other here, which is so vital to developing great musicians and creating an environment where students can thrive.”

Groenewold directs Bella Voce, teaches two courses, and gives organ lessons.

Allison Wordes, a senior taking lessons with Groenewold, says, “She shares her passion of music with us at every opportunity. The Dordt music department is blessed to have someone with her enthusiasm and skill.”

“We have a rich tradition at Dordt—graduates from the organ program have been at the forefront of research, scholarship, and performance around the world, and I’m excited to continue that,” says Groenewold. “Dordt is a fertile ground for studying church music and worship. Educating students in these fields will have lifelong implications for wherever they find themselves serving, benefit the worship of congregations, and bring glory to God. I am thrilled to be involved in this important task.”

Laurel Koerner

Laurel (Alons, ’06)Koerner’s interest in theatre developed as a theatre major at Dordt. So, when a position in Dordt’s theatre department came open, Koerner was excited to return to teach at her alma mater.

“I have participated in theatre at other institutions, and it became evident to me that there is something special happening at Dordt. We have strong traditions as well as fresh opportunities.”

Koerner especially enjoys the new theatre space, which keeps department members in closer proximity to each other. She also finds it invigorating to be part of a collaborative team who cares deeply about their students and about one another.

“We genuinely like spending time together. There’s no possessiveness or competitiveness, and I think that can be rare in higher education.”

“I have loved having Laurel as a professor!” says Ally Visser, a senior. “She allows students to lead where the discussion goes and answers any questions they have. I wish I wasn’t a senior so that I could take more classes with her.”

“Laurel’s teaching is outstanding, and her emphasis on collaboration is stretching us,” says Dr. Teresa Ter Haar, professor and chair of the department.

“I’m excited by seeing what students discover about themselves through theatre,” Koerner says. “Theatre, to me, is an empathy gymnasium, and it asks for our whole selves to be part of and present in it. It provides a place for growth and flourishing, and we get to nurture students in this special place and time, to equip them for whatever may come.”

David Platter

David Platter firstheard about Dordt in 2005, when he crossed paths with two Dordt students on the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ Middle Eastern Studies Program.

“They were fun to be with and genuinely helped all of us in that group to grow,” recalls Platter.

Those students left enough of an impression on Platter that, when he learned about an art position at Dordt, he didn’t hesitate to apply.

Since making the move to Sioux Center, Platter has found that the Dordt community really is as enriching as he was led to believe.

“Our students appreciate the opportunity to learn and grow,” he says. “They are engaged, take their work seriously, and have genuine pride in it.”

Platter especially enjoys collaborating with engineering and pre-architecture students in studio art courses. Dordt is uniquely situated for such cross-disciplinary opportunities—it is small enough that faculty from different disciplines can easily interact with one another.

“Ultimately, I am teaching expression through material, time, and space. The fundamentals of sculpture have remained relatively constant, but digital technologies open up possibilities for creative exploration and innovation in otherwise laborious materials and processes. The options offered by 3-D scanning and printing are transforming the ways we express ourselves and design the world around us. Students need to play with this and explore what these technologies are capable of.”

“David brings an excellent mix of talent and experience,” says Matthew Drissell, associate professor of art. “He is an expert sculptor, is able to take students in ambitious new directions in three dimensions, and brings a solid understanding of art curriculum.”

Dr. Onsby Rose

Dr. Onsby Rose worked for 11 years as a trombonist, conductor, and combat-trained Marine for the U.S. Marine Corps Bands. He served as a freight conductor for Norfolk Southern and Canadian Pacific Railroads before becoming a director of bands for a middle and high school in Tennessee. He conducted The Ohio State University marching band while completing his Ph.D. Now, he serves as associate professor of music at Dordt, where he conducts the Wind Symphony, the Campus-Community Band, the Chamber Orchestra, and Jazz Band. He also guides the instrumental and music education programs.

Rose appreciates the high level of music-making at Dordt University.
“Dordt’s ensembles can hold their own with any undergraduate ensemble from the largest universities in the country,” says Rose. “This is an incredible representation of what God is doing at Dordt.”
Rose loves that, along with creating great music, he gets to teach future music teachers.

“Music education can only continue if we teach the skills needed to be successful,” he says. “Even those not majoring in music will have their lives enhanced by learning a deeper appreciation of the wonderful gift that music is. Seeing my students use their skills and knowledge to go on to do great things is the true reward for any teacher.”

“Onsby Rose has been a strong addition to our department,” says Ryan Smit, director of choral activities. “He is highly motivated and energetic. His connections to many composers and wind band directors across the country and world will also enhance and broaden our students’ music experience.”

Vaughn Donahue

Before he came to Dordt, Vaughn Donahue spent 10 years as an entrepreneur, doing design work locally and around the nation. Now an instructor of graphic design, Donahue feels that his professional experience benefits his students because, as he says, he has “seen it all.”

“I teach the principles and techniques of good design, but I’m also able to talk about how these things work in the professional world,” says Donahue. “We discuss how to interact with clients and how to price our work. We talk about when to pursue a design job or when it becomes appropriate to conclude a professional relationship. It’s been a joy to help them navigate all the questions the students have.”

Donahue enjoys the wide range of possibilities available to him and his students as artists. Dordt’s campus is, in many ways, their canvas, and they can positively affect the visuals around campus by displaying their work in hallways or in the gallery.

“Having on-campus design opportunities transforms classroom work from hypothetical design into real, tangible experience for my students,” says Donahue. “I’m grateful to the greater campus community for their willingness to take part in the education of art students. These kinds of experiences are invaluable.”

Students find Donahue to be a great professor.

“Vaughn Donahue is hands down my favorite professor,” says Olivia de Vin, a senior graphic design major. “He keeps class fun while still maintaining a professional atmosphere in the classroom.”

Donahue believes art is critical for both a university and for society, exposing people to the creative process and truths about life as Kingdom citizens.

“Art challenges people to think differently or at least reflect on why they think the way they do,” Donahue says. “By engaging issues of ethics, society, and faith, art can hold up a unique mirror to our world. And it is paramount for Christians to be part of that.”