What’s Right with (Christian) Higher Education

Many things are wrong with higher education today, to be sure.  But let’s not overlook the bright spots.  One of these is the Lilly Fellows Program in the Humanities and the Arts seated at Valparaiso University.  (Full disclosure: I was a postdoctoral fellow at this program from 1997 to 1999).

I write about it now because its guiding light, Mark Schwehn, has recently stepped down as Provost of Valparaiso.  His book Exiles from Eden: Religion and the Academic Vocation in America provides the theoretical rationale for the program, which, among other things, coordinates a national network of church-related colleges and houses a post-doctoral fellows program for aspiring Christian academics on Valparaiso’s campus.

To honor Schwehn’s retirement, a special conference at Valparaiso was just held.  Papers were given by Thomas Hibbs (Baylor), Stephan Paulsell (Harvard Divinity School), Michael Cartwright (University of Indianapolis), Heath White (University of North Carolina-Wilmington), and your humble scribe, among others.

For those interested in learning more about the program, here is its mission statement:

The Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts, based in Christ College, the interdisciplinary honors college of Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, seeks to strengthen the quality and shape the character of church-related institutions of higher learning in the twenty-first century.

                 The Program sustains three distinct yet integrated initiatives.

The first is a collaborative National Network of Church-Related colleges and universities that sponsor a variety of activities and publications designed to explore the Christian character of the academic vocation and to strengthen the religious nature of church related institutions.

The second is the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program, which supports, during their first three years of graduate school, young men and women of exceptional academic talent who are exploring vocations in church-related higher education.

The third is a residential, two-year Postdoctoral Teaching Fellows Program at Valparaiso University for young scholars who wish to renew their sense of vocation within a Christian community of learning in order to prepare themselves for positions of teaching and leadership within church-related institutions.

Together these programs bring focus, clarity, and energy to a critical aspect of a much larger project: the imaginative reformulation and implementation of an agenda for church-related higher learning in the twenty-first century.

The Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts is funded by Valparaiso University, the LFP National Network of church-related colleges and universities, and a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation.

One can find  the program’s website here.

And one can find Mark Schwehn’s elegantly written Exiles from Eden here.

For those interested in the intersection of religion and higher education today, this book simply must be read.

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