2/10/21 Cal Poly Veritas Forum: “Resisting Bias & Reshaping Institutions”

Thank you for everyone who prayed for, and participated in, last week’s online Cal Poly Veritas Forum: “Resisting Bias and Reshaping Institutions: A Conversation About Advancing Racial Justice in Religious Institutions, Government, and Higher Education.”

Our guests – Justin Giboney, Stephanie Summers, and David French – modeled a civil discussion among Christians processing a difficult and timely topic – racism and justice. The content was outstanding – students and faculty commented this was the best Veritas Forum they’ve ever attended.

Thanks to the magic of Zoom, faculty and students from throughout California – and even as far away as the University of Texas – were able to participate. We certainly recommend taking time to watch (or listen) now that it’s posted on YouTube.

We’re aware that the topics of race and racism are constantly discussed on university campuses, yet generally void of spiritual content. We’re also aware that many churches and Christian organizations have not engaged well in this topic, leaving a generation of students – even within the church – to question the relevancy of Christianity in the world they live in.

Founded at Harvard University in 1992, the Veritas Forum is an annual academic event at Cal Poly that seeks to “engage students and faculty in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.”

Many thanks to the student organizers, and faculty advisor Dr. Marc Horney, for taking a step to try to bring these two worlds together.


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Standing in Solidarity

AEPiFaculty Commons stands with solidarity with the men of AEPi Fraternity – and against hatred and bigotry of any kind. Information on the events of 2/5/21 can be found here.

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2/10/21 Veritas Forum: “Resisting Bias & Reshaping Institutions” with Justin Giboney, David French, and Stephanie Summers


Please join us Wednesday February 10th as the Cal Poly Veritas Forum welcomes:

Justin Giboney – Founder, The AND Campaign / Attorney / Political Strategist
David French – Senior Editor, The Dispatch / Columnist, Time
and moderator Stephanie Summers – CEO, Center for Public Justice

As they discuss “Resisting Bias and Reshaping Institutions”

We’re so excited about this topic and our speakers. Issues of race and racism are often discussed on campus, yet often void of any spiritual content. Many churches and Christian organizations have not engaged biblically in the conversation, leaving a generation of students – even within the church – to question the relevancy of Christianity.

Our speakers and moderator come from different backgrounds and perspectives, but share a common faith in Jesus Christ.

The one hour discussion from 5pm-6pm PST is open to students, faculty, and the anyone larger community. Forum organizers will also offer 30 minutes of smaller discussion groups afterwards, specifically for Cal Poly students or faculty.

Please forward and share this opportunity with students, colleagues, or friends from the community.

To attend, please register here. We look forward to this event and hope you can join us.


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God’s Kingdom in the Academic World: NorCal Faculty & Staff conference co-sponsored by InterVarsity & Faculty Commons


Please join us as InterVarsity and Faculty Commons co-sponsor “God’s Kingdom in the Academic World” – the NorCal Christian Faculty and Staff Conference Friday evening March 12th, and Saturday morning March 13th.

This year – due to our virtual format – we are excited about expanding beyond our original Northern California location, welcoming faculty and staff from campuses from throughout California, other Western states, and Hawai’i. 

We’ll have a chance to hear from professor, author, and speaker Dr. Tim Muehlhoff, interacting together on the topic “‘Blessing for Insult’ in Today’s Argument Culture – Seriously?”

Dr. Muehlhoff, shares: “at a time when it seems we can’t agree on anything, 98% of Americans state that incivility is a serious problem; while 68% agree it’s reached crisis levels.  From cyberbullying, to hate speech, workplace harassment, demonizing political language, verbal abuse, and intolerance the vast majority of us (87%) no longer feel safe in public places sharing our opinions.  

“What do we as Christians owe others as we enter the public square and are met with incivility? The Apostle Peter offers one piece of advice that believers should refrain from responding to an insult with an insult, but rather, give a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9). Could such a strategy work in today’s argument culture?”

Join us as we together discuss and wrestle with this vital topic, and what this can look like as we interact with colleagues, students, and others.

We’ll also hear from a panel of legal experts – Brad Dacus, Greg Jao, and Lori Kepner – sharing and taking questions on the First Amendment and religious freedom in the academy. 

This is a unique opportunity to meet, connect, and interact with Christian faculty and staff from multiple university campuses – and aims to be a source of lasting relationships that will not only provide support and fellowship, but will also spur us on towards greater involvement in the work of God’s Kingdom in the academic world. 

Registration and more information can be found here.

We’re looking forward to our time together and hope you’ll consider joining us. 

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A Christian Approach to Dealing with Racial Gridlock: 2/27/21 “Winds of Change” conference

Please consider joining us for an upcoming online event sponsored by the “Winds of Change” conference, a ministry to faculty and Ph.D. students. This year’s presenters are Dr. Michael O. Emerson (University of Illinois, Chicago) and Dr. George Yancey (Baylor University). 

A Christian Approach to Dealing with Racial Gridlock

Race? Again? Why now?

After months of social and racial unrest, and graphic videos of violence, a lot of people are just tired of the topic. We get that. And haven’t we made progress, even in this year? Sure. Still, this is a rare opportunity for substantive change. In listening to professors, it becomes apparent that real change won’t happen until there is a change of heart and thinking about racial issues. Legislation won’t do it. Quotas won’t do it. Endless diversity seminars won’t do it. Under analysis, the four major approaches leave one or more factions unsatisfied. Why? None of them recognize the lack of biblical undergirding.

Drs. Emerson and Yancey discuss the four major approaches and their shortcomings. They also propose a fifth approach, based upon biblical truth. Come join us to listen, discuss, ponder. Saturday, February 27th, 2021. Capacity is limited, please register by February 15, 2021. Sponsored by the “Winds of Change” conference. 

Registration and additional information can be found here.  

Dr. Michael O. Emerson is Professor and Department Head of Sociology at the University of Illinois Chicago. He is a leading scholar of race and religion in the U.S. He is the author of 15 books and nearly 100 other publications. Several of his books, including Divided by Faith and People of the Dream have won national awards. Currently, he is directing the most comprehensive national study of those topics ever conducted, and working on a book and several articles from that research.

Dr. George Yancey is a Professor of Institute for Studies of Religion and Sociology at Baylor University. He has published several research articles on the topics of institutional racial diversity, racial identity, atheists, cultural progressives, academic bias and anti-Christian hostility. His books include Compromising Scholarship (Baylor University Press) a book that explores religious and political biases in academia, So Many Christians, So Few Lions (Rowman and Littlefield) a book that assesses Christianophobia in the United States, Beyond Racial Gridlock (Intervarsity Press) a Christian book which articulates a mutual obligations approach to racial issues, and, with Michael Emerson, Transcending Racial Barriers (Oxford University Press) an academic book that articulates a mutual obligations approach. He has a forthcoming book One Faith NoMore: The Transformation of Christianity in Red and Blue America (New York University Press) which examines the schism between conservative and progressive Christians. He is currently working on the effectiveness of homeless programs and exploration of the role collaborative communication can play in dealing with the racial divide in the United States.


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“Synchronous Teaching as Love Language” Dr. Paul Marchbanks, English

Professor Paul Marchbanks recently wrote a short article on the influence of his faith in his teaching and interaction with students. These short articles – called Missional Moments – are sent to approximately 1500 faculty each week around the country. If you’d like to receive them, you can do so here.

“Synchronous Teaching as Love Language”

Paul Marchbanks, English

Switching gears from psychology to literature in the mid-90s involved recalibrating my sights, but not my heart.  Before I began taking my first graduate course, I visualized clearly the kind of academic community I hoped to nurture when I finished my degree, one born of psychological depth, spiritual honesty, and university-proximate housing.

Nine years later, Tracey and I moved into a faculty condo and, within months, had students plopping on our couch to share the challenges of walking with God in the 21st century.

Our first group sprang from the tears of a student searching for a radically transparent, faith-based community. For a couple of years she and a handful of other undergraduate and graduate students collected at our house on Thursday evenings to share everything from favorite poems and difficult Bible passages to painful family situations and deeply personal hardship—all covered by prayer at evening’s close.

The decision to include this activity as university service in my first annual Retention Tenure and Promotion report raised a few eyebrows. Pointed comments that spiritual camaraderie could compromise objectivity in the classroom made it clear that this particular form of ministry would not be celebrated by some in my department. We moved forward, however, and watched as house visits took various forms over the years. We’ve filled the living room to overflowing to screen films adapted from assigned novels, cut back our numbers to walk alongside students dealing with serious trauma, and even provided pre-marital counseling.

This past year in anticipation of becoming empty-nesters, we decided to open our front door even wider than before. Students were dropping by for monthly film screenings and game nights in the fall, and we were gearing up to jumpstart another prayer and discussion group . . . when the coronavirus hit.

Suddenly, to love students meant holding them at more than arm’s length, hiding beneath a mask those nonverbal facial cues so key to understanding, and trying to track a checkerboard of faces during online class discussion.

The temptation for faculty has been to pull back even further than necessary, minimizing facetime with students in order to prioritize childcare, self-care, and assorted, long-delayed projects. One graduating senior told me during spring quarter that my literature course was an outlier, the only class out of five to require regular, live conversation.

Maybe we should reconsider our slow gravitation towards asynchronous teaching—and not out of fear that our institutions will be sued by parents irate at being charged normal tuition for inferior instruction. The patience and kindness urged by Paul (I Cor. 13) requires considerable time and attentiveness in our new, virtual classrooms. 

What if, instead of contracting our work hours, we expand them to accommodate dynamic, small group discussion sessions? 

What if we recognize synchronous teaching as the new, pedagogical love language it has become?

Our students are starving for life-giving interaction—for not just words or speech but actions anchored in truth (I Jn. 3:18). You might prove to be the only one willing to give it to them.


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March 12th & 13th, 2021 Faculty Conference

Please save the date and plan to join us March 12th-13th (Friday evening, Saturday morning) for our Nor Cal Christian Faculty/Staff virtual conference, featuring Tim Muehlhoff, a special panel on religious liberty in the academy, and a chance to connect with other faculty throughout California.

Co-sponsored by InterVarsity and Faculty Commons.

More details to come.

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The Path Not Chosen

Our friend Nicole Kircher recently wrote an article on how she’s seeing God at work. These short articles – called Missional Moments – are published weekly during the academic year. If you’d like to receive them, you can do so here.

The Path Not Chosen —  Nicole Kircher

I’m thinking about what I do today, and how I’ve come to where I am. I am privileged to teach where I do (at a large private university in the San Francisco Bay Area), and there isn’t a week that goes by since I started several years ago where I am not personally thankful to God for where He’s placed me professionally. 

But no, I would not have intentionally chosen the path I have been on. I am skilled in the discipline wherein I teach, but I would’ve chosen something slightly different. Something flashier and higher profile, and more reflective of how I saw myself as an undergrad.

And: I wouldn’t choose to be divorced after a relatively short marriage. I wouldn’t choose to be a single mom and for my son to not experience living in a home where both of his parents are committed to each other and love each other. I wouldn’t even choose to live and work where I do, primarily because of the exorbitant cost of living. I could go on.

But God.

I am not interjecting “God” here because it is the Christian thing to do or say. That would be simplistic and would diminish how God has orchestrated every gut-wrenching, shameful, confusing, and isolating moment in my life to get me to where I am now.

He has been faithful when I haven’t. He has been consistent when I forgot what I believed in en lieu of getting my needs met in unholy ways. He has been gentle because He is a good Father.

I pray that each one of us, with our own broken pasts and our own regrets and mistakes, uses our influence to show our students what God can and wants to do for them.

Even though I wouldn’t have chosen my personal history, because of it, I can now connect with many students who have gone through similar circumstances. So many of my own students are single mothers trying to earn their degrees so they can provide for their children, and I can relate to them at a heart level. Occasionally, as I feel the Holy Spirit leading, I’ll share with these women (and some of my other students) about my faith. While I pray diligently before I open up in this way, I have yet to have a student be unwilling to hear what I’ve had to say.

Nearly all of my students have expressed feeling encouraged and thanked me for opening up and sharing hope. 

I know that many of us are pouring into the lives of our students; they see that we care about them and love them. Let us please remember to point back to the One who cares for and loves us! The One who placed us intentionally in this position of privilege and honor, and the One who will use both our peaks and valleys to minister to those we serve.

Nicole Kircher (Academy of Art, San Francisco)


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On the Road

“Missional Moments” are short, weekly updates sent out during the year by Faculty Commons. Here’s an outstanding recent example by Professor Amanda Hodges. If you’d like to begin receiving Missional Moments, you can do so here.

On The Road

What best describes your early months of 2020 as an academic? Fear, panic, depression, division, disruption, determination, dedication, hope, community, love, peace, tranquility? – I can relate to some, if not all, of the terms above. I remember the day we learned that research at our university would suddenly “pause.” 

The timing could not have been worse for my program.

I had been studying an invasive insect for several years, and we had seen a significant increase of the population during January and February of 2020. March should have been the time for critical data, and then it wasn’t. Instead, we were banned from any research and even remote fieldwork because of the pandemic.

An entire year of research lay in waste at my feet for several projects. 

Loss, despair, irritation, and anger are real and undeniable emotions in such a scenario for many academic professionals.

Yet, there was no time.

With my inbox flooding, the phone ringing, and a videoconference awaiting my attention, I needed to carry on and proceed with publications, grants, virtual extension event planning, and student mentoring. To try to mitigate the spread of the pandemic, it seemed as if the whole world had stopped, except for essential hospital workers and us – academics toiling away in their remote offices.

In the chaos of 2020, with the pandemic and the riots over social justice issues, how do we bear witness to our hope and salvation that is Jesus Christ?

I don’t have the answers. In fact, I may be the least qualified to write this as I’ll admit that sometimes I have had trouble seeing God among the rubble of our current situation. After all, this is no longer the “business as usual” academic position where I felt God had called me to serve.

Fortunately, the Scriptures point to the ultimate doubters as our redemption model – the disciples. Their world had just been turned upside-down. The Teacher had been crucified. This was not their model for divine discipleship. Sadly, they didn’t even recognize Him on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had to open their eyes to see, so that they could begin the ministry and future that they never imagined. 

As academics, what can we learn on our road to Emmaus with Jesus this year (Luke 24:13-35)? 

Slow down and reflect. I’m learning that taking the time for reflection has improved my research and calendar management for the 2020-21 academic cycle.
Determine what’s essential and what’s not. Prayer and the study of the Scriptures are essentials.

Accept the divine plan in every situation in life, even if we can’t understand it. For me, this requires completely re-training my mind every day as a scientist.

See Jesus walking with us. Though my mind sometimes creates roadblocks or blinders, I need to remind myself that He’s always there. So each day is a new opportunity to meet him on the road and hopefully, to have the opportunity to introduce Him to my colleagues and students.

Dr. Amanda Hodges (Entomology and Nematology, U of Florida)


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“Hard Conversations: How do we engage people with whom we strongly disagree?” featuring Tim Muehlhoff

Biola University Professor Tim Muehlhoff (Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) recently gave two webinars to a group of adult professionals on the topic “Hard Conversations: How do we engage people with whom we strongly disagree?” He’s an engaging communicator, with both academic and personal experiences in this area.

Part 1: Interpersonal Relationships
Recorded webinar now viewable here

Part 2: Public Engagement
Recorded webinar now viewable here

Timothy Muehlhoff | People, Biola University

About Tim Muehlhoff: While teaching at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tim Muehlhoff received his department’s highest award for teaching and has been recognized by the International Communication Association for outstanding teaching. In his M.A. thesis, Muehlhoff developed a method of encouraging civil dialogue and perspective-taking between groups who perceive themselves as morally opposed with no room for, or interest in, connection. Extending his thesis research, his dissertation focused on a performative approach to enriching marital communication. His research interests also include social justice, gender, family communication, interpersonal communication and persuasion. His current project involves understanding the narratives of oppressed women in rural parts of New Delhi, India.

Sponsored by Cru City Austin (part of Cru’s ministry to adult professionals).

Tim Muehlhoff will be our keynote at our West Coast faculty conference scheduled for Friday – Saturday March 12-13, 2021. More information to follow.

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