Friday, July 14, 2017

2017: The 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation

500 years ago -- on October 31, 1517 -- Augustinian monk Martin Luther nailed his "Ninety-Five Theses" to the wall of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, criticizing the Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church had become a money-making enterprise. Luther's Ninety-Five Theses were designed to start a dialog with the Roman Catholic Church about serious issues on salvation, grace and the Gospel.

That cataclysmic event heralded what would become over the next hundred years a historic movement that would reshape the world with a complex set of reforms throughout Western Europe. What the Reformation did was create a new branch of Christianity: Protestantism, from which sprouted Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals and many more denominational churches.

The movement that became known as the Protestant Reformation set in motion a century of change that would transform Christianity, government, politics, banking, capitalism, literature, education, and work, making an impact on our lives even today.

To commemorate the quincentennial of this history-altering time in human history, LeTourneau University's School of Theology and Vocation will host "A Day of Common Learning: Reflections on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation" on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Classes will be canceled to enable maximum participation in a day-long scholarship event to provide 45-minute presentations, papers, panel discussions and book reviews that will enable the LETU community to better understand what the Reformation was and why it matters. Some proposed topics include: the Reformation and politics, statehood and government; Reformation and music; how the Reformation influenced scientific knowledge and exploration; the Reformation and the university; the doctrine of grace and the Reformation; vocation and work in Reformation thought; global perspectives on the Reformation; and the relationship between the Reformation and American Evangelism.

More details on the Day of Common Learning will be forthcoming.

Kudos to Dr. Kelly Liebengood, dean of the School of Theology and Vocation for organizing this event in the life of our university.

I hope you will all make plans to attend some of these events and learn about how the Reformation reformed Western culture and the lives we live today.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Alliance Defending Freedom: A Guide to Faith in the Workplace

LeTourneau University's Center for Faith and Work equips believers to integrate their Christian faith and their professional lives, just as our late university founder, R.G. LeTourneau, did during his lifetime.  

As part of that mission, the CFW has partnered with Alliance Defending Freedom, the foremost defender of Christian liberty, to provide an important resource for Christian business owners to know their legal rights when it comes to exercising faith in the workplace. This resource is An Employer's Guide to Faith in the Workplace: Legal Protections for Christians Who Own a Business. You can access this 44-page document here

As an alliance-building legal organization advocating for Christian business owners, ADF exists to provide legal defense for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. This free guide helps business professionals, and all Christians in the workplace, understand what the law says about our religious liberty and how to legally incorporate Christian principles and practices in the workplace.    

ADF works with over 3,000 allied attorneys and partners with more than 300 allied organizations with a success record of 80% of their legal cases. ADF attorneys have played a role in 47 U.S. Supreme Court victories.

The guidebook provides help with practical questions such as "Can I share the Gospel with my employees?" and "Can I hold regular prayer meetings or chapel services for my employees?" and "What are sexual orientation, gender identity (SOGI) laws?"

The guide provides a section on general workplace policies; personnel decisions including hiring, firing and religious accommodations; providing company benefits; and guidance for specific businesses with products or services that considered expressive in nature. The guide also explains hiring insights for businesses that can claim Christianity as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

The guide is not a replacement for specific legal advice, but does provide insights and assurances for business owners and for the rest of us about living our faith outside the walls of the church or home and in the public marketplace on how to protect our rights and the rights of employees in an increasingly hostile political environment.

As Christians, our faith informs all of our everyday interactions. God's word challenges us "...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). 

The purpose of this LETU-ADF publication is to give business professionals confidence as they seek to run their business for the glory of God. It is a complicated charge in our pluralistic society but one we seek to be faithful in meeting.   

Friday, June 2, 2017

God's Grace, Through His People

Memorial Day Weekend 2017 is one to be remembered for years to come.

On Sunday night, two tornadoes moved through the Longview area. They were the latest in what seems to be an unusually stormy spring. Many are still in shock at the Canton storm that left five dead last month. I-20 has become a tornado alley.

Thanks to God that none were killed in Sunday's storms.    

Kudos to LETU Chief of Police Michael Schultz for quickly getting out the tornado warning on our Emergency Campus Communication System (ECCS).

The path of one tornadic storm was just west of campus. Cars were crushed like plastic toys. Felled trees cut homes in half and blocked streets. SWEPCO said over 100,000 customers lost electricity. As I'm writing, Marsha and I still do not have power at our home. I know this is true for several others in our LETU family.
But it is not the storm damage that will be remembered years from now. We will recall that God-honoring kindness of many who came to our aid. 

In the last days, I've seen LETU staff grab their chain saws and come to the aid of those with tree damage.  I've seen you share generators and tarps to cover holes in roofs. And I know LETU staff members have opened their homes and shared their light and refrigerators and air conditioning with families who are without power at their homes. 

Our LETU facilities team has done a faithful and speedy job of cleaning away tree debris (at one point the Green Street entrance was blocked--pictured below) and inspecting roofs and air conditioning units for damage. 

May our testimony of Memorial Day 2017 not be of "Mother Nature's Power" but instead may our testimony be of "God's grace, through His people."

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Welcoming New YellowJackets at Summer SWARM

Tomorrow afternoon, LeTourneau University will host around 90 students and family members in the first of three SWARM events to welcome our newest students to campus.

SWARM--which stands for Student Welcome, Advising, Registration and Mentoring--is an opportunity for students to stay on campus overnight, get their housing assignments, meet their new roommates, meet with faculty advisors, register for class  
es and leave here as card-carrying members of LeTourneau University, ready for move-in when the fall semester arrives.

This summer's SWARM events are the largest we have ever seen at LETU, according to Carl Arnold, our vice president for Enrollment Serivces. Kudos to the Enrollment Services team for the work they are doing to help these new students transition to life at LeTourneau.    

To our faculty and staff, be sure to smile and extend your best LeTourneau Nation welcome to them when you see them on campus. A smile, cheery greeting and warm hospitality go a long way toward making our incoming students feel excited about their decision to call this place home for the next few years.       

The students and their families this week are coming from 11 states, including California, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Kentucky and represent all of our academic majors.

During their visit, they will have dinner with members of our LeTourneau community tomorrow night in the Corner CafĂ©, tour the residence halls, play a variety of games--including ultimate Frisbee--and learn about life at LeTourneau.   

Tomorrow's Summer SWARM is already full.  The June 9-10 SWARM already has more than 100 students and family members registered. Registration is already underway for the third SWARM, which will be July 14-15. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Funding Investments in Future Graduates

Our LeTourneau University Board of Trustees recently approved our 2017-18 budget that includes an investment in growth initiatives that will expand LETU's impact both locally and globally.

Included in this budget is the opening of a permanent LETU office this fall in South Korea at Handong Global University. Engineering professor Dr. Jesse French will be our ambassador as he and his family move there to lay the groundwork for this new initiative with HGU. Not only does it strengthen the already strong partnership we have with HGU, but this new initiative stands to be a gateway to recruit students from throughout Asia.

In our new Plano microsite, the budget includes two new positions, including a new chair for global business programs and a business-to-business marketing position. The Dallas market is a significant opportunity, and we can meet the needs of Christian business owners and their employees. 

Here in Longview, we have announced our new engineering dean and new business dean appointments, but will also be funding a new associate dean in engineering. Dr. Kelly Liebengood has already been serving as our new dean of theology, and now we are in the search process to fill the role of director of our Honors College. 

A search has been launched for a new fine arts director who will facilitate new arts experiences for our residential students. Many of our students come to us with years of music training and artistic ability that needs a place to be expressed. The new fine arts director will restart a LeTourneau choir, like the one that LETU had for many years, as well as work with our student worship leaders. 

Another growth initiative is the addition of our track and field program, which provides a pipeline for recruiting students who may have participated in track and field in high school and who want to attend LETU to become an engineer, an aviator, an educator or nurse. We will begin the program using borrowed facilities at local high schools, but will begin looking at funding to build a nice track for events on our campus.

Our investment in dual enrollment initiatives has resulted in a total of 500 current dual enrollment students. Dual enrollment has become a public policy priority with state legislators to help defray the costs of college education and make it more affordable. Dual Enrollment is a priority with both public and private schools, and the timing is right for LETU to play a role. Our dual enrollment partnerships are providing an open pipeline for students to earn college credits and learn more about LETU and the many programs we offer. At last count, about 60 of our current dual enrollment students who are graduating from high school have applied for admission to attend LETU on campus in the fall. 

In another investment in growth, the board also has approved the purchase of two new twin-engine aircraft for our aviation program for this year.  Our expansion into the McKinney National Airport location continues to draw students and expand our impact and our name recognition there.

These are exciting times at LeTourneau University as we prepare to celebrate the achievements of about 400 graduates who are completing their degree programs during our two commencement services Saturday, May 6. This new budget will fund investments to graduate future classes of well-prepared students into every workplace in every nation.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 LETU Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

Friday night was a special evening in the Allen Family Student Center Great Room as we inducted two new members to LeTourneau University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Golfer Leslie Lee ('11) and the late cross country runner Nicole Leman ('13) were the first new Hall of Fame inductees since 2005.

These excellent former student-athletes were the first LeTourneau YellowJackets to compete at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III championship levels in their respective sports and were the first to represent LETU at the national level.

Qualifications for a Hall of Fame inductee including having significant athletic recognition at LETU in at least one sport and must be out of LETU athletics for at least five years. The character and integrity of these young women made them both excellent choices for this honor. Their names have been placed on the new Hall of Fame wall in the Solheim Recreation Center Leslie and Nicole's parents were presented with a replica plaque to keep.

Leslie Lee was the first LETU athlete in any sport to reach NCAA DIII Championship.  

She also is the only back-to back ASC individual medalist in conference history. She won in 2009 and 2010 and finished only one stroke off the leader in 2011. 

She competed at the national level and finished 8th place among the nation's top golfers. She played 76 rounds in 38 tournaments and, in her four-year college career, earned five tournament wins and marked the four best season scoring averages in school history.

Leslie was named to the Division III All-West Region Team by the National Golf Coaches Association in 2010-11 and was also named a National Golf Coaches Association All-America Honorable Mention in that same season. She earned the LETU Athletics Female Student-Athlete of the Year award in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

She also earned Academic All-Southwest Conference honors with a minimum 3.0 GPA in 2009, 2010 and 2011. She graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and earned her Master of Science in Quantitative Finance in 2013 and Master of Business Administration in December 2013 from the University of Texas at Arlington. Today she is an accountant associate at P2 Energy Solutions in Fort Worth. She and her husband, Nick, have a son, Elder.

Her former golf coaches Lauren Gentry and Andy Woodring shared about Leslie's coachability, consistency and persistence that helped her be a champion.

Our other 2017 Hall of Fame inductee Nicole Leman was the best female runner in LETU cross country program history. 

By her senior year, she was the first YellowJacket to win the individual title at the ASC Championships. Leman, who originally planned to play volleyball before joining the cross-country team before the 2010 season, finished 10th at the NCAA South/Southeast Regional Championship, which secured her a spot at the 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships--making her the first cross country runner in program history to represent LETU nationally, and only the second YellowJacket athlete to represent LETU nationally after Leslie Lee.

Leman had five first-place finishes and three awards for "Runner of the Week." She was named to the Academic All-ASC Team in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and earned the ASC Distinguished Scholar-Athlete Award in 2012. She received Sportsmanship Athlete of the Year for cross country in 2012 and following the 2012-13 season, was named LETU Athletic's Scholar-Athlete and Student-Athlete of the Year.

After graduating in 2013, Leman worked as a personal trainer at the Alaska Club, where she worked with and coached people with disabilities. On December 9, 2015, she died in a tragic hiking accident in a mountainous region of New Zealand.

Her head coach Markeith Brown spoke about her kind and competitive spirit. Her father, former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska Loren Leman, and her mother, Carolyn, accepted her award on her behalf.

To watch a video of the entire 2017 LeTourneau University Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony , click here.

LETU President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford welcomed the guests to honor 2017 Hall of Fame inductees Leslie Lee and Nicole Leman.

2017 Hall of Fame inductee Leslie Lee received her plaque from LETU Athletics Director Terri Deike.

Carolyn and Loren Leman received the plaque honoring their late daughter, Nicole Leman, from LETU Athletic Director Terri Deike.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Recognizing Faculty of Excellent Service & Innovative Research

At Tuesday's TFO meeting, LETU Provost Steve Mason awarded $12,000 in faculty research grants to selected faculty members to continue the wonderful work they are doing to advance their academic disciplines. 

The Grant Application Review Panel, chaired by Dr. Duane Trogdon, carefully reviewed each application to determine the eligibility of the applicants and proposed activities. Assisting with the presentations was TFO President-elect Dr. Wayne Jacobs. The following were awarded:

David Dittenber, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering
$4,500 - Modular Light Gauge Steel Wall Panels for Disaster Shelters
The SafeHome senior design team has begun developing a promising and innovative wall panel system for use in disaster relief shelters.  This modular wall panel is manufactured from light-gauge steel tracks, studs and sheets of various sheathing materials.  Constructing and adapting two load frames will allow for testing of these modular panels, opening new avenues for continuing research and development.  The goal is to design housing that can ease human suffering for people who are displaced from their homes, such as in the Syrian refugee crisis or following weather disasters.  Funding was awarded to Dr. Dittenber and the design team for equipment and materials to conduct the proposed research.

Kotaro Sasaki, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
$4,000 - Transfemoral Amputee Knee Stabilizer
The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a mechanical assistive device to stabilize prosthetic knee joints for transfemoral amputees (also called "above-knee" amputees), and help increase their mobility and safety. Dr. Sasaki's specific goals of this project include: 1) to design and refine a prosthetic-knee stabilizing device that is affordable and simple enough to be used in under-resourced settings; 2) to validate the efficacy of the device by comparing physiological and biomechanical data obtained from "simulated transfemoral amputee)" with and without using the device.

Robert Wharton, Professor of Business Administration, with co-Principle Investigators: 
Karen Jacobs, Associate Professor Business Administration
Doug Waldo, Associate Professor Business Administration (not pictured)
$1,800 - Study of Emotional Intelligence in College Students
Studies have indicated a relationship between linking Emotional Intelligence to human performance, personal health, and resilience. Emotional knowledge, skills, and intelligence hold a major key to improving education and helping students, teachers, faculty, and student development professionals attain higher degrees of achievement, career success, leadership, and personal well-being. The grant awarded to Dr. Wharton's team would provide for the dissemination of the instrument to all incoming freshmen in fall 2017 and the accompanying research.

Jodie Hilburn, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education
$1,100 - Across the Pacific - Educational and Cultural Perspectives
The grant awarded to Jodie Hilburn will allow her to accept the invitation extended by Hannam University to travel to Daejeon, S. Korea during the summer of 2017. She will explore the Korean Summer Studies Program (KSSP), develop corresponding/supplemental curriculum for LeTourneau based on the KSSP, and provide a faculty member chaperone to accompany the LeTourneau students participating in the KSSP.

Vicki Sheafer, Professor of Psychology
$600 - Faith Integration and Metacognition
The focus of Dr. Sheafer's project is to develop an assignment that accomplishes three goals:  (1) the integration of faith and learning, (2) the development of metacognitive skills, and (3) the improvement of student learning outcomes as reflected by exam scores. The assignment is called "Question, Quotation and Reflection" (QQR) and is completed for daily assigned readings.

Congratulations to all these fine grant winners! We will look forward to hearing about your research next year at the LETU Research Symposium.

Also, at Tuesday's TFO meeting, Steve awarded the Teaching Faculty Organization Excellence in Teaching Award to theology associate professor Luke Tallon. This award recognizes outstanding teaching from faculty members who have contributed to students, to scholarship and to this campus in ways that advance performance in the classroom and the student experience.

Previous Excellence in Teaching winners for 2016-2017 include applied aviation sciences instructor Ricky Hellings, civil engineering associate professor David Dittenber, associate professor in computer science Ken Rouse, math professor Larry Anderson and engineering instructor Joel Koblich.   

Our faculty are the primary reason our university excels in preparing students for the future as they pursue God's calling on their lives to serve him in every workplace in every nation. We are indeed blessed that our faculty continue to serve Him so eloquently here at LeTourneau University.