Thank you, Shorter

Originally posted 8 July, 2011 on Facebook, to get the word out to as many people as quickly as possible – but with all the standard drawbacks of a Facebook note, i.e. lack of propagation if you don’t log in.

I had hoped I’d put off posting this message for a little bit longer, but there are text messages starting to come in, and I’d rather have people hear this in my words than through the Shorter Grapevine.

I have been offered a position at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, VA, to teach chemistry and physics and play a key role in building that school’s natural science department.  The position and the surrounding professional development is nothing short of the perfect job for this point in my career.  I will move in August.

I was well into my preparations for the fall when this possibility started to develop, and it took on a life of its own and developed far faster than I thought it possibly could.  Those of you who have known me best know that one of the things I have looked for for the past several years has been an opportunity to step into academic leadership, and I was convinced all those opportunities for Fall 2011 had passed me by; I honestly did not want to make a parallel move at this point in my career, even though my CV has all the teaching experience on it and none of the leadership experience.

So when I first talked to Mark Roberts, VI’s provost, I was simply blown away by how much what he was looking for in a chemistry/physics professor fit with what I needed.  I’m going to be teaching like mad to start.  (The way it’ll get described on the CV is “I will continue to develop the breadth of my teaching experience.”  What that means is “DEAR GOD I’M TEACHING ORGANIC CHEMISTRY IN THE FALL WHAT HAVE I DONE?”  If you were at Rose-Hulman during my senior year, you will understand – this means you, Jerry “DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT THING?” Benson-Montgomery.)  But I will also start planning for what a chemistry major at VI will look like, and there is every prospect that I will take leadership of such an enterprise very, very quickly.

Literally:  I have no choice.  The position is everything I need right now.  I honestly did not think I’d find another place as sold out to teaching as Shorter University is.  I have.  I think that’s what I’m most excited about of all.

But to go to one great place, you have to leave.  And I am leaving a great place.

Understand this:  There are so few places in America that are as committed to undergraduate education as Shorter University is.  And in 2003, there was literally nowhere else in the country that fit me as well as Shorter fit me then.  I have not become who I am, I am not half the teacher I am now, and I am not even remotely prepared to even THINK about academic leadership without having spent these eight wonderful years at Shorter.

Whatever transitions are going on right now, I firmly – FIRMLY – believe that there are very few institutions in this country who fill this role that Shorter fills, this commitment to superior undergraduate education, and particularly for modern evangelical Christians.  Even among the traditional liberal arts colleges, the applications for faculty are less about quality teaching and more about how many publications you have and how you’re going to get funding for research.  It may be frustrating to some that Shorter has never gone down that road, but for the undergraduate, it is far, far better.  I believe that with all my heart.

I am forever grateful for what this institution has provided me, and I’m serious in my prayer that this work continues for years and years to come.  Please keep praying with me for Shorter, and for my family as we start this new experience as well.

I wish I could have told all of you individually before seeing it impersonally on Facebook, and I will try to talk to as many of you as I can over the days and weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, I have a class to finish, and we start waves today, and I hope you guys are ready to go…

Blessings to you all,