Behind Closed Doors
What the Faculty Lounge Says About a College
In an era where “bigger is better” why would a professor devote his life’s work to a small Christian college instead of a large secular school? Part of the answer might be found in the unlikeliest of places: the faculty lounge.
Dr. Matthew Vos heads the sociology department at Covenant College, but his involvement goes back to the 1980’s when he attended the school as a student.
“After attending a Christian college, I’ve worked in one for all of my adult life – now some 26 years,” Dr. Vos says. “Accordingly I’ve seen things from a variety of vantage points which include a student perspective, staff perspective, and since 2000, a faculty perspective. “
From Student to Professor
“As a student at a Christian college I was invited to participate in reflective dialogue which was grounded in our shared materials – the scriptures. More than supplying the answers, the biblical text and our disciplinary discussions shaped the questions we learned to ask, and to this day, the question, ‘How might a person of faith think about this?’ is close to the center of most of what I do.”
This question not only shaped how he approached questions as a student, but also how he interacts as a professor, whether it’s during a class discussion or with faculty in the lounge.
Observing the Faculty
“I have a theory that the most important room in a Christian college is the faculty lounge,” he adds. “Any prospective student visiting a college should pop their head into the faculty lounge for a minute or two. The lounge will reveal whether the conversation between faculty members is interdisciplinary in character. It will reveal the extent to which departments and individual faculty members share openly or ‘guard turf,’ and it will reveal the extent to which they truly love the students they serve, or see them as problems that interfere with work perceived as more important.”
Faculty who invest in students and each other create an environment that other professors and students want to be a part of.
Creating a Supportive Environment
“For me, the essence of a Christian college is its faculty dialogue, and the extent to which faculty who see themselves as friends can genuinely and openly ‘pick each other’s’ brains’ and challenge one another in an environment where each feels honored,” he adds.
“If the faculty are isolated from one another, if they see some departments as important and others as unimportant, and if they are loathe to do things together outside of the workday, the scriptures they share will likely have but small impact on their work, and on the way they interact with students in the classroom,” Dr. Vos says.
“Faculty are the lifeblood of the college community,” he adds. By supporting one another in and out of the classroom, professors influence the Christian college community in powerful ways, making it a place where students receive the best from their instructors.
Sara Ward has a master’s degree in educational psychology and currently writes articles for businesses, educational groups and nonprofits across the web. She also writes a personal blog on faith, adoption and loss at poetsandsaints.com