New Frontiers: Faculty Expand Their Influence

Gordon has long recognized the impact and influence of its professors beyond the classroom and into the broader academic landscape. Recently, four professors took on new opportunities.

While on sabbatical this semester, Tim Sherratt, professor of political science, was named as a Fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. His role there will be to continue writing and creating interactive content about the political values of the CPJ.  According to the CPJ announcement, “The primary project Sherratt will complete as a CPJ Fellow first will engage local congregations—particularly those who say they don’t have a reason to have a Christian perspective on politics—to generate questions.”

Though she’s also on sabbatical, Janis Flint-Ferguson, professor of Education and English, has been invited to speak at the national convention for the National Council of Teachers of English on Nov. 23. Building on the conference theme of “Re-inventing the Future of English,” Flint-Ferguson‘s talk address the integration of ELA and history using genres to teach reading and writing in middle school.

Patricia Anders, part-time instructor in the Department of English Language and Literature, is now an associate editor at Hendrickson Publishers. One of her roles will be acquiring new titles for the Hendrickson list, and she hopes to guide faculty with appropriate book proposal. (A Gordon alumna who works at Hendrickson Publishers wrote the press release on Anders’ new role.)

John Sarrouf, adjunct professor of Peace and Conflict Studies as well as communication arts, directs The Family Dinner Project for The Public Conversations Project, a local non profit grassroots movement of food, fun and conversation. He was recently invited to pen the organization’s most recent family blog post, “Don’t Yuck on my Yam: A Mantra for the Table and Beyond.”

Writing the Personal and the Profound

For most professors, writing and publishing in their disciplines is a regular extension of their scholarship. But when writing becomes personal—and passionate—it has a different impact on both the audience and the scholar. Recently, three Gordon professors saw such pieces published.

In the current issue of Commonweal Magazine, Agnes Howard, associate professor of English and history, explores the difficult but crucial topic of coping with miscarriage. Her article, “Comforting Rachel: How Christians Should Respond to Prenatal Death” provides an insightful guide on the profound emotions around losing a baby as well as a context for Christian communities.

Denise Frame Harlan, adjunct professor of English, takes on the many challenges of the writing life itself, from health and relational disruptions to how aging and physical space affect the very act of putting words to paper. Her essay entitled, The Swing,” appears in Ruminate Magazine.

And as a favor to an administrator, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, had the difficult task of watching and reviewing a DVD series that addressed her passions: evangelical faith, science and truth. It wasn’t an easy writing project, given the contentious and often tense perspectives from within the various groups. This month, BioLogos posted her essays Science and The Truth Project, part one and two“ on its web site.

Sculpting a Better Self Image in Families

Body sculpting pedagogy can be effective in illustrating family dynamics. At least, that’s one area that Professor of Social Work Sybil Coleman has been exploring in her scholarship this fall while on sabbatical. Coleman even presented on the topic at the 63rd Annual Convention of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work held in Atlanta Oct. 17-20, 2013. Her talk,”The Past Matters: Body Sculpting” used the concept to explore the generational dynamics of two unhealthy families and discuss the impact on personal relationships, emotional well-being and spiritual health of the family members and possible intervention strategies.

Here’s how Coleman described her interactive presentation:

“Growing up in an unhealthy/dysfunctional family distorts who a child becomes and what he/she thinks about themselves, others and possibly God. They often believe the wrong things about love, trust, respect, personal value, responsibility, anger, fairness, acceptable behavior and proper discipline to name a few possible distortions. When they believe the wrong things about God they will most certainly believe the wrong things about themselves.

“When problems and circumstances such as parental alcoholism, child abuse, or extreme parental rigidity and control interfere with family functioning, the effects on children can sometimes linger long after these children have grown up and left their problem families. Adults raised in dysfunctional families frequently report difficulties forming and maintaining intimate relationships, maintaining positive self-esteem, and trusting others; they fear a loss of control, and deny their feelings and reality So, the needs of children in dysfunctional families are not consistently met. While it is generally understood that children are valuable, vulnerable, dependent, immature and imperfect, negative patterns of inappropriate parental behavior become the focus rather than the nurturing of the child. The child often becomes externally focused and develops an inadequate sense of self.

“The purpose of my presentation is to look at two of the many types of dysfunction in families. These are the addicted parents (who may also be deficient) and the controlling parents. Both types of parents and subsequent family dynamics will be sculpted and the unmet needs of the child will be illustrated through looking at the generational, interconnected dynamics. I also looked at three questions: What does scripture have to say about parenting, caring for children, impact of addictive and controlling behaviors? On what basis do we determine intervention strategies? What might a healthy outcome look like?”

Baseball, Race and Religion: Exploring a Bumpy Playing Field

For LeQuez Spearman, assistant professor of recreation and leisure studies and newest member of that department, his scholarship is often about the uneven playing field of America’s greatest game: baseball. During the Popular/American Culture Association in the South’s national conference in Savannah, GA, in early October, Spearman chaired a session entitled, “Lessons Learned from ‘42’: Examining the Intersection of Race, Class, Spirituality and Sport in the Jackie Robinson Story.” He also presented an individual talk he called, “A Critique of Meritocracy and Race in ‘42’: What Really Mattered in the Jackie Robinson Story?”

In early November, Spearman—whose research interests include social inclusion in developmental baseball, leisure constraints theory and environmental sustainability in sport facilities—will continue an iteration of his talk at the North American Society of Sport Sociology conference in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. There, he’ll focus on the twin tides of oppression Jews and African Americans have faced by using Hank Greenberg and Jackie Robinson as an entry point to examine the interface of sport and religion. 

Here is his abstract of the talk: “America is seen as a bastion for meritocracy, and the sport films produced and directed here tend to reflect this narrative. Sport is regaled as the great equalizer for so many of the social groups pushed to the margins of society. Simply put, the final score in a contest is decided between the lines and not in the public sphere. The film ‘42’ continues this tradition of meritocratic sport films with the biography of Jackie Robinson, the first African American to break the color line in Major League Baseball. My presentation and paper critiques meritocracy and racism as illustrated in this film.”

 

How a Liberal Arts Education Inspires Entrepreneurial Thinking

Gordon has long enjoyed a culture where new initiatives match new ideas. And scholarship anchors both. From the Institute for Public History and Global Education programs to green chemistry research and theatre productions,  the ethos of the  liberal arts tradition and a Christian world view fit easily with entrepreneurial thinking. So when Carter Crockett, an entrepreneurship scholar and social entrepreneur, joined the faculty this fall as the director of Gordon’s new Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, he knew he’d come to the right place.

Crockett’s goal is to merge novel concepts with noble practices across disciplines, and his background has uniquely prepared him. After graduating from Westmont College in 1992, he worked as a marketer among technology companies in Seattle as well as with some of the most innovative companies and products in the world. He left Microsoft to serve as Co-founder/President of Dealer Trade Group, a wholesale (B2B) marketplace for trading vehicles online. As co-founder of Karisimbi Partners, Crockett and close friends worked to build up promising ventures in Rwanda, where client companies are a symbol of national growth and sustainability, and they established a high impact model for social enterprise in frontier economies. With a Ph.D. in Entrepreneurial Ethics, Crockett returned to Westmont as a tenure-track faculty member of Economics & Business and has taught entrepreneurs on three continents.

He sees Gordon as an academic incubator for entrepreneurs in the making. Here’s what Crockett said about his new role:

“Entrepreneurship is inherently practical, personal, cross-disciplinary and relevant, and so this creative endeavor serves to compliment and extend the core of the liberal arts in important and marketable ways. Clearly, not everyone is an entrepreneur, yet already Gordon’s faculty members have inspired our talented students to put ideas to flight and create their own opportunities. To encourage more of these passionate, enterprising students, the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership is creating a new cross-department minor and will host a campus-wide Social Venture Competition this April. I see entrepreneurship as a natural extension of a liberal arts community, one that seeks to elevate its contribution to the world in new ways that reflect God’s creativity and Kingdom.”

Screwtape on Stage, Thanks to Jones and Stevick

Norm Jones

The imperfections of the human soul provided British writer C. S. Lewis plenty of fodder for his classic novel The Screwtape Letters, a humorous story told by a tempter in Hell offering instruction on the art of deception. Now, to mark the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death and to celebrate his life and works, Theatre Arts Professor Norm Jones has teamed up with English Professor Mark Stevick to present The Screwtape Letters on stage, opening Oct.  25.

“Lewis has had such a profound influence on so many of us in the Gordon community,” Jones said. “We wanted to honor that impact by staging this unique and insightful adaptation of his novel to correspond with this anniversary.”

Mark Stevick

Adapted by Stevick and directed by Norman Jones, the production integrates three works by Lewis: The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce and Poems. The staged version dramatizes a series of letters written in Hell—where the souls are food and the stakes are high—by a senior tempter, the rigorous and ironic Screwtape, to her niece Wormwood. It features a cast of 17 student actors, some of whom play several characters. Jones’ production transforms The Screwtape Letters into an 80-minute cosmic—and often comic—tour of the battlefields where the struggle for souls is waged. 

The show opens in the Margaret Jensen Theatre of the Barrington Center for the Arts on Friday, Oct. 25 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 2 with nightly performances at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday matinees at 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission, and $8 for students, senior citizens, and faculty/staff of Gordon College. Tickets can be purchased here.

Gordon Scholars Explore: Rejection and Cinema, Values and Mentoring

Around the world and across the Internet, Gordon professors continue to offer their expertise and scholarship for the greater good. Here are more examples of recent contributions from Gordon faculty at the start of a new academic year:

Jonathan Gerber, associate professor of psychology, continues his scholarship on rejection with an article in The Journal of Social Psychology on, “Clarifying the Relationship Between Ostracism and Relational Devaluation,” which recently went online.  In it Gerber and co-author, Ladd Wheeler, examine “how three perspectives on relational devaluation relate to needs that threat following ostracism. In two experiments with 179 first-year psychology students, distress was greatest when participants were ostracized without any prior throws, and distress decreased linearly with increasing prior inclusion.”

In this month’s print and online edition of Texas Monthly Magazine, filmmaker and communication arts assistant professor, Toddy Burton, offered her expertise in an article exploring Christians in cinema. The story is entitled, “Americas Next Top Mogul: Why Rick Santorum Decided to Leave Politics (for now) and Become the CEO of a Texas-based Christian Film Studio,” and Burton is quoted about the growing number of filmmakers who are also Christians who “understand the rigor of doing (film) well.”

Bert Hodges, professor of psychology, just returned from a symposium at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense, DK), entitled “Values and Systems in Interactivity, Language and Cognition,” which brought together scholars from Denmark, Poland, Russia, England, and Sweden,  around his work on values-realizing theory (Hodges, 2007, 2009; Hodges & Baron, 1992). Each speaker described his or her own theoretical or empirical work and related it to values-realizing theory. Hodges also presented a paper, “Breaking the symmetry: Realizing values in remembering, trusting, and learning,” and held a one-day workshop before the symposium on values-realizing theory for faculty and advanced graduate students at the university.

At the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Dan Russ, academic dean and professor of English, recently gave a key note address at a two day gathering called, “The Education Forum: What is a Teacher?” His talk, “The Gift of Blind Hope: The Teacher as Seer”—which was an excerpt from a book chapter he wrote of the same name and around the same question of what is a teacher—focused on the story of Athena’s guiding young Telemachus in the guise of a king Mentor, the origin of our word mentoring.

When Mark Twain Got Mad

So Mark Twain had a dark side after all. At least that’s what Steve Alter, professor and chair of the history department, says.

In the first of a series of occasional lectures from the history department this year, Alter will address Twain’s other side and its implications in a talk entitled, “Mark Twain’s Anger: Individualism versus Social Conformity in America, from Ben Franklin to Huck Finn,” on Monday, Sept.  30, at 4:00 p.m. in Jenks 406.  Alter hopes to put the reputation of the great American writer’s in a broader historic context. The lecture is free and open to the public. Here’s how Alter describes the talk:

“I’ll be tracing a ‘great conversation’ about the individual in relation to society, especially the problem of American individualism v. social conformity—and the related question of whether we can trust what our conscience tells us is true. Writers on these subjects include Ben Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Alexis de Tocqueville, and—giving the most penetrating analysis—Mark Twain: whose deepest reflections, of course, occur on a raft floating down the Mississippi.”

This Just In: Gordon Faculty Continue to Offer Public Scholarship

Even at the start of a new academic year, Gordon faculty members are contributing their gifts and scholarship to the broader community in a variety of ways. Below is just a sample of what’s been happening lately for some professors outside of the classroom:

Tal Howard, professor of history and the executive director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry, wrote about The Promise of Religious Colleges for the leading web site, Inside Higher Education, which they published Sept. 19.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) published a story Sept. 21 on the Accessible Icon Project that features Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, and his work with that project: Is it Time for a New Wheelchair Icon?”

Ruth Melkonian Hoover, associate professor of political science and international relations, is a featured panelist this week at the John C. Danforth Center on Politics and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis, addressing the topic of Welcoming the Stranger: A Panel Discussion on Religion and Immigration. She will also be the keynote speaker for the Zylstra Symposium on Politics and Culture at Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada, this week addressing the issue of “Proximity, Globalization and the Common Good.”

Wm. B. Eerman Publishing Company released the new hardcover book, “Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman”co-authored by Bruce Herman, Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts, and G. Walter Hansen. One reviewer calls Herman one of the “wisest practitioners of art today and Hansen one of the key influencers and patrons of Christians in the arts.”

In the September edition of the national Green Chemistry Commitment, Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, as well as Gordon’s green chemistry program were featured in an article called “Gordon College: Transforming chemistry through the next generation.”

Boorse Invited to Address National Leaders During Climate Week NYC

Invited as one of only 20 speakers to address an influential group of leaders, Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, will be making brief remarks at the opening ceremony of Climate Week NYC 2013 on Monday, September 24, at the Morgan Library & Museum, and participating in a panel discussion later. Because of her work on the NAE report, Loving the Least of These, that addresses, in part, the economic implications of climate change, Boorse was invited by a representative to the United Nations to address the group.

She reflected the voice of evangelicals concerned about climate change, especially noting why climate change is an issue evangelicals should care about, how perceptions are changing, what actions the U.S. could take to address climate change going forward and how evangelicals can be part of that. 

Climate Week NYC is the annual summit that convenes the world’s top government, business and thought-leaders to discuss the potential of innovation, clean energy and smart technologies to boost growth and create jobs. The Fifth Climate Week NYC addresses the theme: “Our low carbon future: Leadership. Opportunity. Security.”

The Opening Ceremony brings together a coalition of political, business and community leaders who will discuss their shared commitment to a Clean Revolution, and offer specific ideas on how American leaders can collaborate to invest in clean energy, efficiency, innovation and infrastructure for a better future.

Boorse will be joining other speakers such as: David Kenny, CEO, The Weather Channel;
 Deborah Fikes, Permanent Representative to the United Nations for World Evangelical Alliance;  Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank; Meg Whitman, CEO HP; Amy Davidsen, Executive Director, The Climate Group North America
; 
Rt Hon Tony Blair (late arrival);
 Dr Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA; Bob Inglis, Executive Director of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative;
 Sen. Timothy E. Wirth, Vice-chairman, UN Foundation, and
 Ted Turner, Founder and President, UN Foundation.