A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of scholarships in the lives of students, and how they allow students to study, achieve and go out into the world to serve. There is another meaning to that term when used in the singular, “scholarship.” It refers to the work of scholars, of people in schools, of professors and students. Scholarships make scholarship possible.
These last weeks of the semester we get to see brilliant examples of the scholarship, or research, by our students and our faculty. Let me note a few:
- On April 14 the traditional undergraduate program held its annual Undergraduate Research Day. Students prepared poster presentations in fields like sociology, physiology, kinesiology, psychology and several others. They were on topics like stress, strength conditioning and health, sexuality and social attitudes. Others gave paper presentations in fields like history and biblical studies. I walked around two large rooms filled with presentations and asked many of the students to explain their work, what they learned and perhaps what they had expected to learn but didn’t. I was reminded about how careful we must be, and how careful they had been, when we claim that something is or is not a certain way, how much we do not know and the care it takes to explore our understanding. This reaches to the essence of a good education. Our students demonstrated it wonderfully.
- Next week on April 29 the university will hold its Graduate Research Day, organized by the School of Education. Included among the presentations will be topics in marriage and family therapy, leadership in business and organizations, education and special education. These are master’s-level projects and will reflect the sophistication expected at that level of study. I am looking forward to seeing the results of our students’ work.
- During the same time the seminary seniors will present their senior seminar papers. The depth of these studies is always impressive. Our seminary is unique in combining into one class students in ministry programs and those in marriage and family therapy. The mutual interaction and influence is exciting to witness. We see graduating therapists reflect on the theological meaning or implications of their topics, and those in ministry often reflect on the practical effect of their work on the health as well as spiritual development of those whom they will serve.
- And on this Friday, April 22, we will honor undergraduate students who have excelled in their major fields. Part of this excellence is consistent work over years. And part is the recognition that specific kinds of academic projects have excelled in scholarship. The faculty in each major can choose two students for honors and one for highest honors in each of the junior and senior classes.
A central purpose of a university is to promote learning, to teach and in our contemporary setting to expand and deepen our knowledge. One of the most effective ways of teaching and learning is to engage in the research, or scholarship, that poses questions, seeks data, attempts to understand and make meaning out of that data, present it publicly in some form and have it tested by peers—other students, professionals and professors. Some of our students will have worked on these research projects with their professors, and they will publish them in academic and professional journals and forums. In these weeks in which our students present their work we see the depth of learning that happens at FPU.
In the welcome and introduction at the undergraduate honors banquet, the master of ceremonies will read these words that sum up well our student accomplishments in all levels of education: “Tonight we honor your academic achievements. Every community is made up of people with different gifts. Your intellectual and academic gifts, and hard work are central to our purpose as a university and have helped raise the level of learning at Fresno Pacific for all students. You represent the highest ideals of academic accomplishment. We honor you for your achievements this evening.” It’s a very good way to end a semester.