Cultivating Purpose in Scholarly Work

Relating compassionately to students and teaching them effectively: Those are easy to recognize as meaningful expressions of a college professor’s personal faith. It can be trickier, though, to find purpose and value in one’s research.

Hope College’s Continuum Scholars Faculty Development Program invites young faculty into conversations about how to integrate their vocation and their faith. How do you see your work as a calling? Where does your “deep gladness meet the world’s deep needs”?

Are these easier for a poet to answer than a geneticist? Not necessarily. For early-career professors in every field, the notion of teaching and doing scholarly work in a religiously-affiliated context may be new. Many are fresh from graduate study at universities where liberal arts and confessional faith are completely off the radar.

“We have a wonderful group of faculty who already have a substantial research agenda,” says Dr. Andy McCoy. (The director of Hope’s Center for Ministry Studies has co-led the Continuum program since it launched in 2015.) “Can they put a framework around it that is meaningful to them? How does it connect to how they’re calling students to be competent experts in their fields down the road?”

In the voluntary, week-long, summer Continuum workshop, up to eight professors discuss a hefty reading list and share reflections on how faith and scholarship intersect in their disparate professional fields. They discover cross-disciplinary points of convergence — such as engineer Dr. Courtney Peckens’ and economist Dr. Steve McMullen’s common concerns about resources and ethical decision-making. Talking with colleagues also helps the professors grasp the breadth of Christian traditions and understanding at Hope College. During the academic year that follows the summer workshop, Continuum Scholars speak on campus about how their faith enriches their research or other scholarly endeavors.

View Dr. Steve McMullen’s Continuum lecture, “Why Economics Needs the Christian Tradition and the Liberal Arts”