By the end of June, I will have been at Houston Baptist University for one year.
What have I learned?
First, I know now how blessed I am to be here. This is the most exciting academic moment in my experience in higher education.
HBU did not need me, but I get to be at HBU.
Second, President Sloan is a leader. He listens, he delegates, he hears from our Board, but he leads. Sloan is not afraid of risk: we are a small school starting both NCAA football and one of the largest apologetics programs in the nation.
Third, HBU is diverse where it should be and united where it should be. Houston is a diverse city and HBU fully reflects that diversity. We are what most Christian colleges aspire to be, but we have achieved this goal while strengthening our commitment to core values.
Fourth, HBU requires all her students to work through a rigorous, common Western core with an emphasis on Judeo-Christian values. Most schools would not require students to read so much, write so well, or think so clearly and few would allow an emphasis on Western and Christian values.
Find a school as diverse with a stronger common core and you should go there and not here. Otherwise, this is a school that does what most say cannot be done and others will not do.
Fifth, The Honors College is amazing and growing stronger. Under the leadership of Bob Stacey and continuing under Gary Hartenburg, The Honors College is an intense community. Because HBU draws from such a wide range of backgrounds, discussions and student ideas cover every perspective, but are guided by a faculty dedicated to the core values of the school.
The addition of three more full time faculty can only improve a good thing.
Sixth, the school knows her weaknesses, acknowledges them, and has a master plan to fix it. If one hundred million dollars dropped from heaven on many schools, the administration would set up a study team to figure out what to do. We have a vision that decently and in order could digest the funds and then go forward.
We aren’t begging, but we know to do with it if we get it.
Seventh, HBU has a great history. I have studied the history of this young school and it is amazing. There was nothing here fifty years ago, now there is a Van Dyke, four museums, and thousands of alumni.
In many ways, I aspire to equal some of the accomplishments of the 1970’s in my time!
Eighth, I thought having no tenure was a good idea, now I think it critical to success. No tenure encourages faculty growth. We had faculty that have served here forty-five years, but no faculty that have stopped serving. HBU can recognize seasons of a career, but not functional retirement.
We renew the vision every year when we issue contracts.
Ninth, NCAA sports are a very good thing. Why? Playing, watching, or rooting for sports teams makes students want to be here. On-line education lacks the feel of a fall football game.
NCAA sports, in our case the Southland conference, will mean some televised games and scores. It is “big time,” but not so big that it consumes everything else. Big schools may worship sports, but student athletes at schools our size do better than non-student athletes. Vic Shealy, our football coach, “gets it” when it comes to character formation and academics.
Finally, every day I meet some exciting faculty member, administrator, or student. This place is alive with ideas. It might be Dr. Doni Wilson blogging on Great Gatsby. Tomorrow it will be Dr. Boyleston reading his award winning poetry. The next day Kim Gaynor will share insights with me about media: new and old.
And then I go home to a wife named Hope in a town named Sugar Land.
We are in a mythic moment.