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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College community at the opening convocation of the 2015-2016 academic year on August 19, 2015.

 

Students, you are at Bethel College to receive an education.

Teachers, you are at Bethel College to provide an education.

Today, the first day of the academic year, we convene to dedicate ourselves, as a community, to provide and receive an education.

 

An intelligent dedication requires that we first define “education.”

 

Education is an

action or process of

formal teaching

by precept, example, or experience

that results in

the knowledge of information and skills,

and mental, spiritual, and aesthetic development.

 

I would like to repeat that definition:

 

Education is an

action or process of

formal teaching

by precept, example, or experience

that results in

the knowledge of information and skills,

and mental, spiritual, and aesthetic development.

 

From this definition we may isolate five essential components of education, each identified with a word beginning with the letter “a”:

Education is made up of (1) actors, (2) an aim, (3) actions, (4) an avenue, and (5) assessment.

 

The actors: teacher and student

The aim: the outcome in the student desired by the teacher, i.e., that which must be learned and that into which one must develop

The actions: teaching by the teacher and learning by the student

The avenue: the curriculum or course of study taught by the teacher to achieve the desired outcome in the student

The assessment: the evaluation of the desired outcome, curriculum, teaching, and learning in order to maximize the fruitfulness of each of these components

 

Everything we do as teachers and students, if it is to be called education, must in some way relate to these essential components. Anything that does not do so is peripheral to our task, and it is questionable that we should be involved in it.

To illustrate: Why do we build state-of-the-art buildings and use technology like ThresherConnect? In answering this question, it is important to note that buildings and technology are not ends in themselves. They are not essential to education. In fact, in some cases, they may distract from or impede education, e.g., when in class we tap out texts on our phones and check out email and Facebook on our laptops. In reality, education can take place on a log with a teacher on one end giving instruction to and asking questions of a student at the other end. However, we employ assets like state-of-the-art buildings and technology, because we believe they contribute to education when used to advance the components, e.g., teaching and learning.

Ultimately, though, effective education depends upon the extent to which each of the actors, teachers and students, understand and fulfill their roles with respect to the other essential components of education. Since the opening convocation is the occasion at which we, as a community, dedicate ourselves again to these roles, it is fitting that we briefly consider and then commit ourselves to them. (more…)

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The following text comprises the notes used to deliver an address to the Bethel College Board of Directors on October 8, 2015.

 

This morning I would like to address two questions:

  1. What have I discovered at Bethel College during my first few months of employment?
  2. What are our strategies in moving forward in Academic Affairs?

The proposed strategic plan provides a number of answers to the latter question. I would like to expand somewhat upon that knowledge in the course of answering the first question, what have I discovered?

What I have discovered began before my arrival on the job. It actually started with an unusual question posed by a teacher of mine many years ago: From where did Baptists originate?

Part of my college experience and grad school education took place in Baptist institutions in Minnesota. At these schools I learned the answer to that question, from where did Baptists originate: from Anabaptists, particularly those in the Netherlands. And, from these Anabaptists, Baptists adopted the distinctive positions which distinguished Anabaptists from other Reformation groups.

I became convinced: I adopted these distinctives. I taught them to my students, and I taught them to my children, using the Schleitheim confession as a catechetical instrument. Over the years, I bemoaned the historical drift of my Baptist kin from their Anabaptist roots, especially from positions of pacifism and the separation of church and state.

But, then, I moved to Ohio.

While in Ohio, I became intrigued with the ways of the Amish and the many Mennonites who populated the state. I learned that the Amish originally broke off from the Mennonites, both of which are descendants of Anabaptists, maintaining those distinctives to this day.

Try to imagine my surprise and delight. Modern-day Anabaptists existed all around me.

Long, story short: I visited, joined, and became active in a Mennonite church, became a conference delegate, and learned about Mennonite agencies, including Mennonite colleges.

This knowledge led to my search for employment at a Mennonite college which eventually landed me here.

So, I was and continue to be attracted to Bethel primarily because of my discovery of its vision, mission, and values, all three rooted in Anabaptist beliefs and practice.

Take, for example, the vision statement:

 

At Bethel College we

welcome with open hearts,

stimulate personal and spiritual discovery,

transform through the power of community and

inspire the leaders of tomorrow. (more…)

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One may turn to various sources from which to base a philosophy of leadership. A source that has stood the test of time is the New Testament. Therein, one finds two prominent metaphors for leadership: The shepherd and the servant. For example, Jesus is pictured as a shepherd. The figure of a shepherd also is used to describe the leader of an assembly. Moreover, this picture is filled out through leadership qualifications, which, in turn, imply the leader’s role: An effective leader must be a person of exemplary character, because he or she serves as a model or pattern for others to follow. In addition to a shepherd, Jesus is depicted as a servant. From his teaching and example, we learn that one leads best by serving, not by domineering those one is entrusted with leading.*

Before developing the relationship of the metaphors shepherd and servant to the deanship, one must first summarize the nature of that role. The dean is the manager of the academic affairs of the College in behalf of the President. In other words, the dean supervises the fulfillment of the College’s mission and carries out the President’s directions. The dean’s primary concern, then, is teaching and learning. To this end, through faculty, and academic staff, and in consultation with the President, the dean directs the accomplishment and assessment of this mission. This direction includes the development of a consensus with respect to the College’s mission, goals, and objectives. The dean’s role, then, also involves overseeing the implementation, staffing, maintenance, and regular assessment of academic programs, curricula, student outcomes, and policies and procedures. All of these activities need to be performed in a way consistent with the highest standards of educational practice and excellence.

With this brief synopsis of the function of the dean in hand, one may now apply to the deanship the leadership roles of shepherd and servant. As a shepherd, the dean continually needs to articulate the rationale and implications of the College’s mission, with the goal that it becomes for all a matter of internal conviction. In addition, like a shepherd, the dean must be forward looking, a visionary. Accordingly, the dean must engage in continuous personal education and research, so that he can initiate ideas that will help with the ongoing process of assessing and revising all facets of the academic affairs of the College. These ideas must be considered within a collaborative relationship with the faculty. The dean’s goal, much like that of a coach with a team is to draw out the best results from the faculty for the sake of the College and thus its students. The dean must work closely with the faculty in considering academic matters, particularly through committee work and work with division chairs, providing a model of collaborative deliberation. The dean must also work closely with each individual division head in the management of division responsibilities of planning and assessment, helping the division chairs to utilize a collaborative relationship with those who make up the division. The dean’s aim is the ownership by all faculty members of the mission, goals, and objectives of the College and those of the division in which they serve. The dean’s desire is that everyone in the College identifies his or her success with student success. This identification will be possible largely to the extent that there is available to faculty a meaningful level of participation, a genuine opportunity to contribute.

The dean will not only shepherd, but also serve. The dean serves faculty members by facilitating their involvement in the continuing business of the College. The dean also serves faculty members by (more…)

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