Calvin University student Emily Steen and her faculty adviser Mark Mulder, Ph.D., are one of three student-faculty pairs to have been awarded this year’s Hatfield Prize by the Center for Public Justice. CPJ is a nonpartisan Christian organization based in Alexandria, Va. whose mission is to pursue justice by serving God, advancing justice, and transforming public life through “citizens and leaders work(ing) together to shape public life for the good of all.” Recipients will spend the next six months conducting research and writing on a chosen social policy “and explore the impact of these policies in their local communities.” Students receive a $5,000 award and faculty $1,500 to pursue this work. Final reports will be published September 2023.
“Award recipients integrate faith with academic scholarship,” CPJ said in a news release, “pursuing today’s pressing social challenges through a public justice framework that recognizes the unique roles and responsibilities of government and civil society.” The prizes, now named for the late Senator Mark O. Hatfield, who was known for his principled Christian faith, have been awarded since 2018. This year, along with Steen and Mulder, the pairs of prize winners are from LaTourneau University in Longview, Texas, and Multnomah University in Portland, Ore.
Steen’s research will focus on “formerly incarcerated returning Calvin Prison Initiative students and graduates as they face systematic barriers” in public reentry, she said in a Jan. 19 Facebook post. Her research, she said, “is focused on Cain's question to God in Genesis 4: ‘Am I my brother's keeper?’ What is our responsibility to these current and former students?”
“The shadow of mass incarceration truly looms over them, influencing everything about their lives, from their inability to secure employment to the stigma attached to their very being in neighborhoods in which they struggle to find affordable and safe housing," Steen explained to Matt Kucinski in an article for the Calvin’s alumni magazine, The Spark.
Professor Mark Mulder, who will serve as Steen’s faculty adviser, said, “The goal is ultimately about how we better love returning citizens in a manner that nurtures opportunities for them to flourish. That means the research will likely suggest services and networks that will better attend to the particular needs of returning citizens as they pursue undergraduate degrees at Calvin.”
Mulder, who attends Sherman Street Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., said he “hopes the research will highlight the ways in which institutions like Calvin can better serve returning citizen-students.” Steen, who is the founder and president of the Calvin Peacemakers, a restorative justice club that has worked with state legislation and the Michigan Department of Corrections in partnership with the CPI, says she hopes “this research will be an impactful way to give back to the community and students as they wrestle with re-entry care.”