Shifting a career path for more faith focus is not something that happens every day, but it has been life-giving for a former professor from Goshen, Indiana.
Beverly Lapp says that she found a need in her personal life for engagement with faith and particularly with the work that she was doing. The opportunity for this came when a new position was offered to her by Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS).
Lapp took on the role of vice president and academic dean of AMBS starting July 1 of last year. Lapp replaced Rebecca Slough, who was retiring after 11 years in the position. Now, 8 months later, Lapp knows the ins and outs of the position and is adjusting to life away from teaching at Goshen College. Prior to AMBS, Lapp worked as a music professor for 23 years, and head of the music department for 9 years in total.
In her time at Goshen, Lapp also took on administrative roles. She was director of the college’s CORE curriculum from 2013 to 2017 on top of being the head of the music department. Lapp recalls that splitting her time between teaching and administrative roles was a challenge, and it was hard to have both as a primary focus.
Moving on to AMBS has been a good change in this regard. Since it is an organization that gives the same functions as a larger university with a smaller staff, the variety in Lapp’s job is still widespread and sometimes very fast-paced, but along with this, they can get more things done. Lapp says a retired professor who had worked at the United Nations before coming to AMBS commented that the UN would struggle to keep up with the speed of the small institution.
While at Goshen College, Lapp had the chance to lead several of the college’s Study-Service Terms (SST) in China, Peru and the Dominican Republic. The most recent of these trips abroad, China SST in 2017, made some changes in Lapp’s outlook on student engagement and the place of spirituality in her life.
“While leading SST in China in fall 2017, I realized I was looking for more sustained faith practices in my Christian walk,” said Lapp.
The next semester back on campus, Lapp’s last one as a professor, she discovered more drive to talk and have discussions about faith with students. She was surprised to discover that Goshen students were more interested in faith discussions than she had predicted they would be.
Lapp said she found herself “talking more openly about God and questions of faith” as the semester went on. This was part of the next step toward figuring out a new direction.
Lapp admits that she misses students and colleagues at Goshen College as well as the familiar routine of noon recitals on Fridays, which she recounts as being a valuable pattern of the last two decades.
“The regular opportunity to hear musical works in progress and observe students supporting each other was a highlight,” she said.
Even with these long-lasting habits and connections being less of a presence with the new career, she said that “there is a focus in this role [as dean] that is what I was looking for.”
Stepping into AMBS, Lapp has been greeted by a host of enthusiastic faculty and students and a centering space for religious thoughts within every aspect of the school’s mission and everyday tasks.
Being a full-time administrator, she now gets to connect with more departments and aspects within the wide range of things that this smaller institution is involved in. Even though specific ideas and needs are different from a theological standpoint, Lapp felt prepared by her experience with administration at Goshen and now transfers many of her skills over to the new tasks at hand.
As far as music goes, Lapp doesn’t play piano much during the week anymore except occasionally for worship life on campus, though she still practices on the weekend with her restored grand piano in her living room. According to Lapp, her piano has “made leaving the pianos in my Goshen College studio less difficult.”
She will continue to let music be a journey in her life moving forward as she steps away from the realm of being a professor. In terms of the future, she said, “I think church music is a likely focus.”