Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor is preparing to roll out a program to help new faculty members make stronger connections to the school's Lutheran heritage.
“Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor is a Lutheran higher education community …”
It’s right there at the top of our mission statement: “Lutheran.” It’s what we’re all about. It’s a huge part of our heritage. And something we should never take for granted.
To help make sure our Lutheran mission and identity stays just as strong in the future, CUWAA is introducing a “Lutheran Mission and Identity Seminar” for all new faculty beginning in the 2023-24 academic year.
“We developed the Lutheran Mission and Identity Seminar to help CUWAA faculty deepen their understanding of Concordia’s mission to provide an outstanding and uncommon Lutheran education to our students,” said Dr. Leah Dvorak, interim provost for CUWAA. “The seminar’s primary goal is to understand Lutheran doctrine and the Lutheran worldview as they pertain to the role of a university faculty member.”
Rev. Dr. Ted Hopkins, associate professor of theology at CUAA, and Rev. Steve Smith, campus pastor and assistant professor of theology at CUW, are spearheading the initiative on their respective campuses. Dr. Kyle Chuhran, associate professor of education at CUAA, is helping develop the curriculum for both Wisconsin and Ann Arbor.
The seminar has four primary objectives, Hopkins explained. They include:
- To teach an awareness and understanding of Lutheran theology;
- To build and develop a culture around faith and learning and Concordia’s mission;
- To help faculty understand their own faith better and to be more committed to the Christian faith they already have; and
- To explore what a culture of faith and learning actually looks like in the classroom.
“We developed the Lutheran Mission and Identity Seminar to help CUWAA faculty deepen their understanding of Concordia’s mission to provide an outstanding and uncommon Lutheran education to our students.”
CUWAA Interim Provost Dr. Leah Dvorak
Form and function
The initiative is currently in the pilot program stage, with 20-plus volunteers taking part this year. By next year, the plan is to have the program become a required part of the new faculty onboarding program.
As currently being tested, the program includes classroom sessions once or twice a month during the fall and spring semesters when classes are in session. Instruction includes both large- and small-group sessions, with an emphasis on discussion and sharing of insights and experiences.
“We’re trying to make it very interactive, so that we can learn from each other,” Smith explained. “So that even though someone may say, ‘Yeah, I have known all these things since I was a child,’ we can all still help each other know how to applying it in the classroom, because we know that so many of our students are not necessarily well-versed in LCMS teaching.”
Even in this early pilot stage, the program is already showing results, Hopkins said.
“I had a fellow faculty member come out of Chapel recently and say to me, ‘justification, right?’ Because we had just been talking about that topic, and it came up in the sermon, and he recognized it. So it’s fun to see those connections being made.”
When all is said and done, what matters most is shining a light on Jesus—and making sure His presence is always felt at Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor.
“This doesn’t mean you have to become a Lutheran to be on faculty here,” Hopkins said. “But you do need to understand where Concordia, as a Lutheran institution, is coming from and what we stand for. It’s about building up your own faith, understanding the scriptures better, and then working from there.”
“Participants will learn to effectively connect Christian faith with learning in their respective academic disciplines,” Dvorak said. “The Gospel of Jesus will always be front and center throughout the seminar, which of course is always a primary objective for our ‘Lutheran higher education community’ here at Concordia.”
Our mission is clear. The path forward is sometimes marked by obstacles and uncertainties. By making sure our focus remains on Christ through our Lutheran heritage and identity, we’ll continue to help students “develop in mind, body, and spirit for service to Christ in the church and the world.”
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