For the past two years we’ve focused on leadership structure, finances, and enrollment. What will be our focus for year three and beyond?
Year three is all about giving concrete definition and action to our shared vision of greatness as a Christian university.
After two years of working on “nuts and bolts,” I’m energized by the challenge of making Indiana Wesleyan University a truly great Christian university. When I say this, I don’t mean to imply that IWU isn’t already a great university. But I’m intrigued with the prospect of being faithful to the opportunities of this moment in our history.
A truly great Christian university will be a faithful, gracious, engaged Christian academic community. A university is, at heart, a community of scholars. The uniqueness of our university lies in the kind of community we create with each other. In a day when so many would like us to be “issue-oriented” I’m convinced a great Christian university will be Christ-centered. The issues we engage, and the way we do it, must be defined by the One who gives us our identity. Nothing less will see us through these turbulent times that threaten the core of our academic community. In a day when the purpose of the academic enterprise is so often pared down to the barest notion of “learning for earning,” we must daily reaffirm our belief that the rich pursuit of learning ultimately finds it meaning and purpose in the imago dei. In a day when the scholarly pursuit is fragmented and cynical, we must reaffirm our conviction that any pursuit of truth that is not founded on the enduring principles of God’s Word will ultimately come to emptiness.
TRANSFORMATIONAL SCHOLARSHIP AND LEARNING
A truly great Christian university cultivates a pervasive culture of transformational learning, scholarship, and holistic personal development. At the heart of the university is the sacred task of the discovery and application of knowledge, conducted by and presided over by our faculty. Personally, I am inspired when I listen to Phoenix-Park Kim play a carefully researched, coherently assembled, and brilliantly performed recital, knowing that her ability to do this enriches our understanding of the arts, and provides transformational learning opportunities for her students. This is but one example. I could give examples from the School of Nursing, School of Educational Leadership, School of Physical and Applied Sciences, the School of Health Sciences. These are not, or at least should not be, sterile bureaucratic structures. Instead they are living communities in which deeply committed, brilliant faculty and students shape and are shaped by the disciplined pursuit of learning. Our university will never be greater than the excellence we enable in these pursuits.
A truly great Christian university cultivates and sustains a community culture that values, challenges and supports all of its members. The work of becoming a community that reflects and promotes the diversity of God’s Kingdom is personally rewarding and enriching. More importantly, a truly great Christian university will not be diverse as a matter of duty, or simply as a happenstance of changing demographics. Instead, a great Christian university will recognize that diversity of experience, thought, and culture are the sin qua non of transformational learning.
A truly great Christian university is a community of engaged scholars and alumni learning and serving in the world’s most strategic places. At a conference I attended in Washington DC last week, one of the speakers observed that our world is both more networked and more fragmented than ever before. Today, I believe that no one can claim to be well educated who does not have a personal understanding of how their national life, culture, art, technology, financial systems, political structures, and religion impact and are impacted by the rest of the world. A truly great Christian university will be a global Christian learning community.
AFFORDABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY
A truly great Christian university will be accessible and affordable to the widest range of scholars and students who seek to work and learn in a Christ-centered academic community. By virtue of our nature as a Christian community we cannot price ourselves out of reach of the people God calls.
The Roman philosopher Seneca once observed, “To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.”
These are often confusing and turbulent times. It seems our lives are filled with news of contrary winds, difficult terrain, threatening conditions, evil conspiracies.
Sometimes I wonder if we find no favorable winds because we have no clear conviction of where we are headed.
Even contrary winds can blow us to some desired destination. It all depends on the set of our sails.
Being President does not give me the right to solely determine where IWU should go. But it does give me the responsibility to ask about the dreams and aspirations of our community, to listen for the Holy Spirit’s still small voice, and then to set our sails accordingly.