Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of attending the annual Alpha Chi dessert to honor professors at Fresno Pacific. Alpha Chi is a national interdisciplinary honor society and our chapter has been very active, receiving the “Star Chapter” award for six years running. This is one of the highlights of my year. The students are articulate and insightful, so I heard some of the best of what is happening among our traditional undergraduates in the arts, sciences, and humanities. Dr. Fay Nielsen, Associate Dean for Student Success, and Dr. Marshall Johnston, Assistant Professor of History and Classics sponsor the club and hosted the event. Dr. Nielsen has lead the chapter for 13 years, and is now turning it over to Dr. Johnston. She has also served as the Regional President.
Last month eight of our Alpha Chi students attended the national Alpha Chi conference in Baltimore. The University paid for their trip. Some universities require the students to raise funds for the conference. We would rather they work on papers to present—it is a required that they present a paper to be able to attend—than work on a bake sale to raise funds.
They presentation had titles like “The Rhetoric of Paul,” “The Implications of Eyeglasses on Human Mate Selection,” “King Alfred’s Proto-Chivalrous Goal,” “The Master of Baroque Sculpture: Gian Lorenzo Bernini,” “You are Fat: An Observation of American Obesity by a Foreigner,” and “‘Annui Magistratus Imperiaque Legum Potentiora Quam Hominum”: Livy’s Use of Libertas in his First Pentad.” Genevieve received the “American History Presentation Prize” for her paper “The Contribution of Mennonite Women to Civilian Public Service During World War II.” Michaelynne was a Regional Scholarship Winner. And Joshua became a Region VII Student Representative on the National Planning Committee for the conference next year. This is all great academic and professional experience for students. It pushes them to excel and they compete well with students from across the country.
The highlight to the evening is hearing the students honor the professors they have selected as “Inspirational.” Patrick honored Dr. Don Diboll for his how he works personally with his kinesiology students, helps them learn how to be professionals, takes them into the field, and works intensively with them on the science of fitness. Dr. Brian Schultz teaches Hebrew and Old Testament. Ana, who is not a Biblical Studies major, has taken multiple courses from Prof. Schultz because he has shown her new perspectives in understanding the Bible, because he is always learning, and because of his gift for teaching. When a student takes a tough course because they are drawn to how the instructor teaches and how much they learn, something is really happening.
Maria honored one of our adjunct instructors of Spanish language and culture, Ms Ana Ponce. Ms Ponce not only encourages students to seek knowledge and to learn deeply, but volunteers as a faculty sponsor of the “FOCUS” club, “Fellowship of Catholic University Sunbirds.” Loretta honored Dr. Sherry Walling who took extra time to help prepare her for interviews for graduate school and connected her with professors in the schools she is hoping to attend. Bobby spoke about how Dr. Billie Jean Wiebe always advocates for the student’s voice, and whose courses are both enriching and challenging.
It doesn’t get much better than this for an academic administrator—some of our most accomplished students honoring some of our most demanding and inspiring professors. Our goal as professors at Fresno Pacific is to be excellent teachers and mentors of students, to be accomplished scholars, and to form a community of learners, students and faculty together. When I attend this event, see not only the students and professors there, but our deans and the President as well, I am reminded that this is what an institution of higher learning is about, and that I am honored simply to be a part of it.