Thursday, October 25, 2012

Global Students, Local Connections

It's no secret that I have long been outnumbered by the women in my life. Marsha and I were blessed with our two daughters, Rachel and Hannah, and our granddaughter, Linley.

Tuesday's lunch meeting was no exception when I had the pleasure of introducing four of our international students to the women of the Zonta Club of Longview.

Zonta International is a global organization of executives and professionals working together to advance the status of women worldwide through service and advocacy.

I was pleased to tell the group that since I have been at LETU, we have elected the first woman chair of our Board of Directors and have hired our first woman engineering professor and our first woman aeronautical science professor.

I was also pleased to tell these women that this fall we have doubled the number of international students and that they hail from places as far away as South Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Madagascar, Togo and Sri Lanka. Attracting more international students is one way we provide a rich educational experience for our campus, but also for the Longview community.

Speaking to the group on Tuesday were four of our students from across the globe.

Miriam is from Kenya and is in our aeronautical science program. She told the group that she wants to encourage women in her country to be aircraft mechanics and pilots to open doors for other women to follow.

Jane is a finance major from Vietnam. She hopes to advance the economic system in her country when she returns after college.

Hope is from China and is studying civil engineering. She knows that since she was the second child, she is a miracle baby who was allowed to survive despite the "one child" policy in her home country. She shared her concern that suicide is the number one cause of death for women in China.

Hanna is from South Korea studying to earn a certificate to teach English. She talked about how she has learned about special education and the importance of inclusion for students.

It was a joy to share these women with Longview. Every great city needs a great university, and for Longview, that university is LeTourneau University.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Global Service Learning Opportunities

This week, 50 years ago, our nation was faced with what we now call the "Cuban missile crisis." The Soviet governments secretly began to build bases in Cuba to launch nuclear missiles into the United States. It was a tense confrontation. We now know how close we were to nuclear war with the Soviet Union. God was merciful.

Five decades later, God is working in Cuba.

An LETU delegation was invited there this fall. One of the aims of LETU's Center for Global Service Learning is to partner with indigenous churches around the world that are seeking to demonstrate God's redeeming love within their local communities. Dr. Kelly Liebengood and Dr. Steve Mason traveled to Cuba to discover areas where the research, expertise, training and skills of our LeTourneau professors and students could help equip particular churches to fulfill the mission God has placed on their hearts, now that an unprecedented window of opportunity is open.

What Dr. Liebengood and Dr. Mason discovered is that entrepreneurial business skills, personal counseling skills and theological training are all desperately needed by pastors to enable them to sustain their ministries during this time when the Cuban church is growing in spite of persecution and scarce resources. LETU has expertise in each of those areas.

Dr. Liebengood reports that the Cuban church has turned a page from being isolated and insular to being a place where Cubans are looking to meet their most fundamental needs. He reported that this movement of God within the Cuban church has occurred simultaneously with a new openness on the part of the Cuban government, which is now slowly allowing Cubans to start and own their own businesses.

Through our Center for Global Service Learning, perhaps LETU can join God in his work there. Please pray for opportunities to create unique learning experiences, ease human suffering, and bring glory to our God who seeks to redeem every workplace and every nation.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Graduates of Christ-like Character

This week, we had the pleasure of having Karisa Kaye, a 2009 graduate who is now a professional marriage and family therapist, come back to campus to teach as a guest lecturer in some of Dr. Melanie Roudkovski's and Dr. Phil Coyle's psychology classes.

Many of you might remember Karisa. She earned her bachelor's degree at LETU three short years ago in interdisciplinary studies with minors in Christian ministries, biology and psychology before attending Richmont Graduate University in Chattanooga, Tenn., where she became well-acquainted with Phil and Judi Coyle before they came to LETU.

As a transfer student from Alpena, Mich., Karisa initially came to LETU to play soccer and become a doctor, but she found her calling was more as a "doctor of the soul."

When talking about her undergraduate experience at LeTourneau, Karisa shares that members of the faculty her became like family to her, describing one as "like a second mom."  

She describes her experience in front of the classroom this week as a guest lecturer as "surreal" when she realized that just three years ago, she was on the other side of the lectern, and now, her professors have accepted her as a colleague.

She sees that her Christian faith is integral to the work God has called her to do. She understands that relationships matter, and in her work as a Christian marriage and family therapist in Maryland, she counsels hurting people dealing with trauma and intimacy issues.

Karisa is an excellent example of our LETU vision statement. She is a professional of Christ-like character, who is pursuing her calling and claiming her workplace as her mission field. She truly sees her work as a holy calling with eternal impact.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Quality of Urban Life

LeTourneau University sponsored a visit by Longview civic leaders to Chattanooga, Tenn., early this week. It was my pleasure to lead the group, and we were well represented on the trip with Bob Wharton and former Chattanooga residents Phil and Judy Coyle joining me. Why visit Chattanooga?

In a 1969 CBS evening news broadcast, famed newsman Walter Cronkite described Chattanooga as the "dirtiest city in America." The city was one of America's first industrial centers, but years of economic changes and accumulating water and air pollution had left the city a real mess -- especially in its downtown riverfront center. In the decades since Cronkite's report, Chattanooga has been one of America's great turn-around stories. The Chattanooga of today is beautiful with a redeveloped vibrant downtown, a beautiful river park, and a citizenry that obviously has great pride in their hometown.

When Volkswagen chose Chattanooga for its new auto assembly facility in 2008, it was because America's dirtiest city had transformed itself into one of America's most livable cities. It was the quality of life that attracted VW, but thousands of others have made individual decisions to move to Chattanooga. Our delegation heard the story of a young marketing executive from Atlanta who had visited Chattanooga as a tourist 12 years ago. He and his wife were so impressed, they made the choice to relocate and raise their young family in the city. It wasn't a job that brought him to Chattanooga; it was a decision to seek quality of life.

Longview's next several decades will be a time of redevelopment. Our city can't just keep expanding into unincorporated pastures. Instead, we must learn to redevelop many of the neglected neighborhoods within our city limits. Economic redevelopment is an opportunity in nearly all corners of our community and certainly in the South Longview neighborhoods that LETU calls home. Chattanooga demonstrates that with focus and patient, diligent work, even the dirtiest city in America can be redeemed.

There are many specific things we learned on our visit -- too many to list here. In summary, I was reminded that change begins with vision for a better community, one that details the quality of life we want for our children and grandchildren.  From vision comes a comprehensive master plan that directs the city's transportation, parks, utilities, land use and other essential programs into one unified direction toward the future we desire. With the master plan as its guide, Chattanooga demonstrated the need for a city to use creativity and collaboration to implement the plan, one project at a time, one neighborhood at a time, with realism that change takes time.

I have a vision of an attractive and business-filled entry way that connects our campus to Estes Parkway, I-20, and the airport beyond. I can imagine a comprehensive city bike and walking trail system that connects us to the rest of the community and a pedestrian and bike friendly path that would connect LETU to a redeveloped "Junction" neighborhood and then beyond to downtown.  If that vision is shared by others, then the next step would be the development of a master plan to guide change for years to come.