ESN Mentoring Letter — MidWest Faculty Conference

Woods at InterVarsity’s Cedar Campus. Photo taken by Thomas B. Grosh IV while on a reflective walk during the 2014 Midwest Faculty Conference.

Hannah, Thank-you for offering this letter of encouragement! The faculty with whom I shared your words at Mentoring over the Long Term: Crafting Conversations, a seminar co-led with Terry Gustafson (OSU, Chemistry Professor) at the 2014 MidWest Faculty Conference on The Ends and Goals of Higher Education in Twenty-First-Century America: Change and the Calling of the Christian Educator, were very appreciative. I look forward to posting material from the seminar in order to create a toolkit for those seeking to dig more deeply into mentoring. ~ Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network

Dear Friends in Higher Ed,

I remember kneeling in the woods one fall day during graduate school, afraid. The reds and oranges around me were stunning, but I was more aware of my knees on the ground and of the growing disquiet I felt. I was afraid not because my secular department was hostile to my faith (it had turned out to be quite supportive of my interest in theology), and not because I was surrounded by the flashier sort of temptation (I lived in a small college town at the time). I was afraid because things like the resurrection of Christ seemed hazier and hazier to me as I got busier and busier. I had committed to a workload that semester that I really couldn’t sustain, and life came to seem a blur of classes, papers, and four-hour nights. I read Scripture each morning, but found it hard to concentrate because there was always another deadline pressing.

As I adjusted to the pressures of grad student life, I longed for a mentor who could advise me on living faithfully in the rush of competing deadlines, someone who could also guide me in integrating faith well with my subject. My department was very strong in mentoring and provided me with great professional and personal advisors. But it wasn’t really their job to ask how my spiritual life was going or supply direct advice on integrating faith and learning, and I hadn’t been there long enough to figure out who might be interested in that kind of mentoring.

God was merciful to me, and I felt His grace and forgiveness after kneeling in the woods. Through some believing colleagues, I also found a local church group around that time which supported me through the rest of that busy semester. In God’s grace, eventually I was able to mentor another grad student in my department as he thought deeply about faith and his subject and the connections between the two.

But the need for thoughtful believers who are willing to mentor other scholars is still strong. I am deeply excited about Emerging Scholars Network’s interest in mentoring, and thrilled to hear about encouraging and equipping mentors at conferences such as the 2014 Midwest Faculty Conference.


Hannah Eagleson

PhD, English literature, 2011

Sunrise at MidWest Faculty Conference 14. What will be the next steps for mentoring in the Emerging Scholars Network? Stay tuned. ~ Tom

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Hannah Eagleson

Hannah Eagleson is Interim Associate Director of InterVarsity’s Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). She launched and still edits ESN's collaboratively written devotional for academics, Scholar's Compass. Hannah also crafts other community-building events and materials for ESN. She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Delaware, and an MA from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD. she’s working on a novel about a dragon who gave up fending off knights to become a tea importer in eighteenth-century England.

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