Tom and I have been busy recuperating from our week at Urbana 09, so there won’t be any Week in Review this week. Instead, we’re each going to share some highlights of our experience. If you were there, we hope that we were able to make contact. If you weren’t there, you can watch videos of many of the speakers and other main session performers at the Urbana website.
So, what did the Emerging Scholars Network do at Urbana 09?
Serving Christ as a Professor: More than 250 students — mostly undergraduates — attended my seminar, “Serving Christ as a Professor: Ten Things You Need to Know.” Many students stayed around afterwards with questions, and I was able to meet many others throughout the rest of the week. We’ll be posting some version of my seminar, as well as my two handouts, “Suggested Readings and Next Steps for Emerging Scholars” and “The Road to the Professorate.”
The highlight, though, came at the end of my talk. After a student asked if any Christian faculty present who could share stories of being a Christian in the academy, Ken Elzinga from the University of Virginia stood to offer words of encouragement to future professors. He expressed the joy he receives daily from working beside students, and his gratitude that God has given him a position of influence in young people’s lives. Ken has written about Christian witness for our Faculty Ministry website, and he will also be the speaker at our 2010 Midwest Faculty Conference, if you would like to hear more from him.
Enrolling New ESN Members: Our exhibit booth at Urbana saw a constant stream of students and faculty seeking to join ESN. We’re not sure of the final count just yet, but there were at least 150 new members.
Connecting Students with Mentors: On December 30, we held a reception for the Emerging Scholars Network. Our small suite was packed with about 35 students and faculty. ESN members came half an hour early, and stayed until we kicked them out. David, an ESN mentor who teaches chemistry in Southern California, spoke with a cluster of science students. Students and faculty in fields like music, computer science, and literature were able to connect with each other, and I’ve been helping a number of students find mentors in their fields. If you’d like to find a mentor — or become one yourself — check out the ESN Mentoring Program.
Even though the conference is focused on cross-cultural missions, Urbana 09 blessed ESN in countless ways. I have not even mentioned the connections we made with professors and campus ministers from around the country — perhaps Tom will touch on that. With some other InterVarsity staff, I’ve also worked on plans for a conference track for emerging scholars this summer for students in the Southeast.
Finally, the number one conversation topic was, without a doubt, discernment: should I go to graduate school? Should I follow a professional or scholarly path? Does God want me to focus on research or teaching? Tom and I will be developing some new ESN resources based on these questions, as well as turning to you for your thoughts and suggested resources.