Finding a Place to Serve

Finding a Place to Serve

When I came to Fresno in the summer of 2019 to start my career as a faculty member, I was beyond excited and so grateful that God had opened this door. As a young teacher in Los Angeles in 2008, I heard God’s calling to work with future teachers. It was a long road, but I continued to walk the windy 11-year path that led me ultimately to Fresno Pacific University.

I suppose I had thought in 2008 that I would get a Ph.D. in Education and then magically fall into the faculty role I had envisioned, but God doesn’t always work in the way that we expect. Instead, he reminded me to be patient as he used the years between receiving my Ph.D. and 2019 to prepare me for this role. I admit that God has had to teach me the lesson of patience and trust over and over, and I still must remind myself of His promises.

In Colossians 3, Paul gave instructions to the church there for ways to live that were helpful for me as I navigated my career path:

“15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)”

This message has stuck with me, and I believe that we are called wherever we are to seek ways for our work to be done “all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

So, when I started as FPU Program Director for Liberal Studies, I was eager not only to serve my students but also to find my place to serve in this community. In the spring of 2021, I was invited to serve alongside other scholars from FPU and the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education on a team planning a summer institute for students at Fresno Unified School District. The summer institute was sponsored by A4 (African American Academic Acceleration) and would serve African American students in grades four through six who were struggling to succeed in mathematics. We hoped to live out the GEIST (GROW Strategically, ENGAGE Collectively, INNOVATE Creatively, SERVE Courageously, TRANSFORM Purposefully) principle to Engage the students Collectively with the mathematics content by integrating some coding activities—also worthy of learning on its own, in my opinion.

We are now planning an “upgraded” version of this institute for summer 2022 that will introduce the students to coding Edison robots. Working on a team with similar passions for making these content areas accessible to students of all backgrounds is rewarding, and I look forward to seeing students experience the activities we’ve planned. This experience, for me, is a needed reminder of God’s faithfulness.

You see, the windy path I described earlier had included research in middle school mathematics classrooms and four years of research on integrated computer science. I enjoyed that work, but I regularly found myself looking ahead and longing for that faculty role. Now, I see how God’s plan is perfect, and my story, as well as the stories of all his children, can often serve as reminders to trust him and to be patient, because he is always preparing us for…something.

Whitney W. Bortz, Ph.D.

Whitney W. Bortz, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor and Program Director, Liberal Studies