Thursday, August 17, 2017

Welcome, New YellowJackets!

Welcoming new students and their parents this morning was truly a joy, despite the rain. I talked with some parents who were dropping off a child at college for the very first time. I remembered how that felt. For first-time parents, it can be an emotional and stressful day. For other parents I talked to, this was their third child they had sent off to college, so they were much more relaxed.

I talked to one mom who said her son had actually chosen another school as his "first pick," but while waiting for a response back from that school, he came to visit and tour LeTourneau and changed his mind and chose LETU. She said the day after he was accepted at LETU, the other school sent him an acceptance letter, but by then, he felt LETU was where he belonged. She said she felt God's hand was at work providing that time for him to visit LETU. 

I met two materials joining engineering majors, and both of them were excited about the prospects and demand for professionals in their field of study. Another student I met was from McKinney, Texas, coming to LeTourneau because he was introduced to LETU by our aviation program there. It was a joy to reassure these parents and encourage these students that they have made a great choice in selecting LETU. 

Every incoming class is unique. This year's incoming class of new freshman and transfer students represent 35 states and 12 countries. About 70% are coming from within the state of Texas, with 52 students coming from right here in Longview, Texas, the most common city represented. The second and third most common states, after Texas, are California and Colorado. 

Nearly 40% of the incoming students moving in today are female, which is a stark contrast to decades ago when there were ten male students to every female student on campus. One dad I met today was proud of the fact he and his wife met on the LETU campus back then. He told me, "The odds were 10 to one, and I got one!" I smiled and gave him a fist bump. They told me they have three sons, two of whom are now enrolled here. 

Days like today don't just happen. I am grateful for all who make LeTourneau University a place where God is at work.

Huge thanks today to LETU new student orientation volunteers, from left, Kai Kiefer, Benjamin Hoos and Sam Kriebel, for their enthusiastic welcome and assistance as new students came on campus today.     

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer Preparations

For many of us at LeTourneau University, summer is a time of preparation for the next academic year. Nowhere on campus is that more evident than in the work of our Facilities Services department.

About 90 full-time Facilities Services employees and student workers this summer have worked diligently to clean and refresh the campus with new paint, lighting, carpets, cleaning, landscaping, air conditioning replacement and so much more.

Our custodial staff has done deep cleaning at all of the dorms, honors apartments, married apartments and Glaske Engineering Center, where they have waxed floors and shampooed carpets. They have cleaned up the dorms and buildings during and after summer residential camps. The Allen Family Student Center and Corner Café are still to come before classes begin next month.

The summer started off with a major clean-up after storm damage around Memorial Day in May left the campus littered with leaves and several downed and damaged trees. Within only a few days, a joint effort from our grounds, trades and custodial crews had the campus cleaned up and beautified again.

The work hasn't slowed down. Twenty new trees have been planted on campus, and all of the mature trees have been trimmed to a height to enable walking under them.

Over 80,000 square feet of walls have been painted this summer, with locations including the Business Services/Marketing Building, Davis Hall, the Civil Engineering Lab and the AO House. Pressure washing of exteriors at the library, Glaske Center, Allen Family Student Center, Belcher Center, Longview Hall and the brick façades on the metal buildings on Glaske Drive have all made a significant difference.

Longview Hall has probably experienced the most significant facelift, beginning with outside landscaping.

Grounds crews this summer have removed overgrown trees that obscured the building from view and had roots threatening some expensive sidewalk and driveway repairs. Sidewalks that were littered with acorns and bird droppings at the entrance of the building are now clean.

Benches in the circle in front of the building can now actually be used for sitting without threats from overhead. The grounds crew also pressure-washed the mildew from the sandstone façade, restoring a new and brighter look.

New landscaping in the front of the building includes some replanted trees and a lower-maintenance rock garden, similar to the entrance of the Allen Family Student Center. The rock landscaping is mirrored on the mall-side of the building, providing a scenic view of the bell tower.

Inside Longview Hall, the carpet has been replaced, painting of all the classrooms has been completed, and overhead lighting has been upgraded.

The Solheim Center is closed this week for upgrades including new flooring, new air conditioning in the office areas and classrooms, and new LED lighting in the gymnasiums and natatorium to brighten those areas.

All of these--and many other projects that are being done--are being noticed and deeply appreciated. None of these projects get done without hard work. We are grateful to those who make our campus such a lovely place to be.

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 Café, 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.