Three out of five students on campus want to know more about professors’ faith journeys; half of them want more faith-related discussion in the classroom.
These were the findings of recent research led by campus pastor Bob Yoder on incorporating faith into classroom settings. “Goshen College can do more in this area,” said Yoder, referring to the presence of faith in and outside the classroom.
Currently he is working on establishing a group of five to six faculty members who will help him develop strategies that professors can use to become better faith mentors to their students.
Because many of the teaching faculty are unsure how to become good faith mentors, part of Yoder’s goal is to educate teachers. To provide a better grasp of what the role encompasses, Yoder uses a book called “Big Questions, Worthy Dreams.” The book defines a faith mentor as someone who, among other things, guides students to resources and engages them in mutually beneficial conversations.
For Andrew Oduor, Yoder’s “Divine Court Faith Members” project seems interesting. “It’s a good idea, but you have to get past the diversity,”said Oduor, a junior art major from Kenya. According to Oduor, there is a lot of cultural and religious diversity on campus and not all students will respond to professors’ attempts to become better faith mentors in the same way.
Chenoa Mitchell, a sophomore Public Relations major from Elkhart, said this project doesn’t hit home for her. In regards to classroom faith discussions, Mitchell said, “I’d probably be somewhat indifferent.” Mitchell also mentioned that the discussions might go too far and become the focus of the class.
Despite the challenges, most of the professors were enthusiastic about incorporating faith into their teaching style. Dean Rhodes, associate professor of Spanish at Goshen College, expressed interest in being a faith mentor. For him, it’s natural that students who enroll at a Christian college be curious about the professors’ faith stories. “I’d be very open to it,” he said.
Bob Yoder was surprised at the interest this project raised among the teaching faculty. “I was blown away by the faculty’s willingness to be faith mentors,” said Yoder. “I’m overwhelmingly pleased with how wonderful faculty we have, very caring people, deep people of faith.”
Yoder expects to have things finalized by the end of this semester and is considering organizing faculty workshops and passing out brochures with tips on how professors can become better faith mentors.