When Dr. VanBruggen came to Geneva from the University of Portland’s doctoral program in psychology in 1972, he was one of only three faculty members in a department that was located in the basement of an old house on the site where Northwood now stands. Dr. David Harvey arrived the same week.
“When we first came here, the department had a degree of impermanence,” says Dr. Harvey. “Dr. VanBruggen did a huge piece of work in terms of building the scientific and experimental parts of the undergraduate program, and he developed the practices and policies for our master’s in psychology.”
As things developed, so did Dr. VanBruggen’s role at Geneva. During his first 13 years, he went from assistant to associate then to full professor, as well as the assistant to the academic dean. After those 13 years, he left to fulfill administrative positions at other small colleges, first in Massachusetts, then in Kansas. But after several years, he returned to Geneva.
“I grew tired of administrative work,” he says. “To my delight, I was re-hired in 1992 as the chair of the psychology department.” Since then, Dr. VanBruggen was also the dean of Geneva’s graduate school for 10 years, during which the number of programs grew from one to five.
But all along his favorite job has been teaching.
“People who like to teach love two things,” he explains: “their domain and seeing students grasp why that domain is interesting. And if you're fortunate, and if God is really good to you, you get to do it at a place where the students appreciate the approach you're taking.”
The Christ-centered approach Dr. VanBruggen is taking can often prove difficult when it comes to teaching a domain dedicated to the mysterious workings of the mind.
“Psychology is complicated,” he says. “Teaching psychology from a Christian perspective is complicated. But Geneva is unusual among Christian colleges in that it is conservative theologically, but allows faculty members much freedom to explore these complicated issues.”
Over the many years Dr. VanBruggen has spent exploring these complicated issues, Dr. Harvey has been alongside him, and the two have worked together to continue to develop excellence at both the undergraduate and graduate level.
“You don't have a relationship with somebody for over 35 years without having an influence on each other,” says Dr. Harvey. “Knowing him has been a positive part of my life. He’s made a great contribution to Geneva and to the lives of a lot of students. I'm going to miss having him around.”
Dr. VanBruggen and his wife Bonnie are originally from Oregon, where they will be returning upon his retirement. He plans to spend his time doing slightly less complicated things like fishing, hiking, camping, birdwatching and volunteering at an aquarium and biological research center near Portland.
Geneva is one of only 118 colleges in the U.S. to be approved for membership in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), and is a founding member.