Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shaping the Next Generation of Christian Leaders for the Workplace

This week is surely going to be a memorable one, first, as I prepare to welcome 400 academic, business and church leaders from all over the globe to attend our Faith@Work Summit in Dallas this evening and, also, as Marsha and I prepare for the wedding of our daughter, Rachel, this weekend. Both of these events are the result of hours and hours of careful planning and preparation, and I am confident that God will be honored and glorified throughout them both.

As Christians, we seek to honor God in every area of our lives. That includes our work. The Summit in Dallas this weekend provides a unique opportunity for leaders to learn from each other and create collaborative partnerships to further faith/work integration, which studies show results in higher job and life satisfaction.

Seminaries and universities are considering how to shape the next generation of Christian leaders for the workplace. One way LETU is involved in that is the launching this week of our new Passage Institute for Youth and Theology to equip youth to consider God's call on their lives and how their faith informs their decisions, before they make their college and career choices. Studies have shown that youth who have engaged in serious theological study and intentional Christian practices have a more resilient faith.

The Passage Institute is made possible by a generous $600,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation and provides for 50 high school sophomores from all over the Ark-La-Tex region to participate in a meaningful mentorship program at LETU. Those students selected to become Passage Fellows will begin with a week-long residential camp in June 2017 on our LETU campus, followed by a year-long mentorship program with a Passage Mentor from their local church, guided by the Passage Institute, and followed by a second week-long residential campus experience.

During that first week-long campus experience, students will have intensive study in classic Christian theology, discipleship, worship, ministry practice and outreach. Seminars will be led by LETU theology faculty.

When these high school fellows return the following summer, in June 2018, they will be called to lead, mentor and serve the next class of incoming Passage Institute fellows.

LETU theology professor Jonathan Lett is the director of outreach for the Passage Institute. He is encouraging parents, pastors, youth pastors, church leaders and others to nominate youth who they believe will benefit from this level of study. Applications require an essay and references and are being accepted online now at Application deadline is January 15, 2017.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Poverty Conference 2016: Wes Moore

Today I had the pleasure of welcoming about 700 community members to the Junior League of Longview's 2016 Poverty Conference featuring best-selling author, entrepreneur and television host Wes Moore in our Belcher Center. I'm proud that LETU is a sponsor of the conference and that the initial poverty conference was the idea of former LETU professor Dr. John Fezzell.

Moore is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Moore is also the founder and CEO of BridgeEDU, the host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and executive producer and host of PBS's Coming Home with Wes Moore.

Poverty is a challenge for Longview and East Texas, one that has direct links to crime rates and quality of life. I applaud the efforts of the Junior League for taking ownership of this conference and convening leaders from a variety of agencies to coordinate their efforts to address poverty here in East Texas.

Keynote Wes Moore shared his testimony and some of the lessons he has learned along the way, about how making choices led to the difference between success and failure.

Growing up in a single-parent household, first in Baltimore, Maryland, then in the Bronx in New York, Moore pushed limits, defied authority, ran into trouble with the police, and wound up in handcuffs for the first time by the age of 11. By 13, he was sent to a military boarding school in Pennsylvania. Today, he is a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, author and business leader.

What a transformation!

In his presentation, Moore described the importance in his own life of being mentored and surrounded by people who believed in him before he could believe in himself. He described his mentor as someone "willing to help you carry your dreams until your shoulders are broad enough to carry them yourself."

Moore emphasized the importance of having high expectations of our youth and helping youth see a future that is bright. He said he learned in the U.S. Army that you can't hit a target you can't see. He said that holds true for our youth, as well. We must set expectations for youth and help them put their eyes on the target.

Our strategic plan calls for LETU to serve our local neighborhood. We know education is a key to fighting poverty. How might we contribute to the fight here in Longview?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hearts of Service and Hands Full of Tools

"What is in your hand?"

That is the simple question that God asked Moses in the Sinai desert before God uses the staff in Moses' hand to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh, to part the Red Sea, to win the battle with the Amalekites, and to bring water from the rock in the desert.

That staff was a pretty impressive tool. And it reminds me of how God equips us all in various ways, like he is equipping a group of our civil engineering students with a great heart of service and a handful of tools to make a difference in the lives of our community.

LETU's Habitat for Humanity (H4H) Club has acquired the use of a 12' x 6' box trailer and is outfitting it with hammers, nails, saws, screwdrivers, shovels, rakes, ladders, extension cords and a host of other tools and equipment for their weekly construction ministry. The student chapter of American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) is partnering with the club in hopes of being a blessing to others who have need.

ASCE President Rachel Smithers said, "Our hope with these resources is to be able to give of our time and eager readiness to help anyone who may need it." Smithers sent out an email to encourage others at LETU to "give us ears all over campus" to suggest projects that they knew about that could bless widows and the elderly in the area, and even assist some of our own LETU faculty, staff and students.

Smithers said the group is hoping to seek out where the Lord is calling them most, and then to plan a work day to help meet needs. Smithers, who is also a regular volunteer for the H4H Club, said the club approached LETU's student senate to ask for funding to purchase the trailer, the sale of which was facilitated by one of our engineering alums.

Dr. David Dittenber is the faculty sponsor for both the student chapter of ASCE and the H4H Club, which has been working since last fall on Habitat houses on Sabine Drive in Longview, providing much of the labor as anywhere between 15-40 LETU students work on the houses every Saturday. He says that ASCE also has about 30 to 40 civil engineering students attending their monthly meetings where they bring in people to talk about their work in civil engineering.

The two groups have talked about doing service projects together, and this trailer enables these LETU students to use "what is in their hands" to respond to disaster efforts and respond to the community as needs arise-much like students did last year in Lindale when several volunteered to help clean up after tornadoes.

Our students take seriously their call to make a positive impact on the lives of the community. I heartily applaud their efforts.

When we offer what we have in our hands to God, no matter how simple, He will use it to do His work, to bring glory to Himself. We just need to be willing to ask ourselves, "What is in our hand? 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

An LETU Education Recognized as Quality Investment

We have received much positive feedback this fall on the quality of the LeTourneau educational experience. Many sources now rate colleges, and it is always encouraging to see the good things that others notice about us.

In case you missed all the good news, here's a summary:

Washington Monthly's 2016 college guide identified "Best Bang for the Buck" schools that "help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices." LETU was ranked number 4 among all universities in the South. And we were the top ranked university in Texas.

Kiplinger included LETU among their top 100 "Best Values in Private Colleges." We were 76 on their nationwide list. The Kiplinger 100 included only five private universities in Texas: Rice, Trinity, SMU, the University of Dallas, and LETU.

U.S. News and World Report included LETU among their top tier of universities for the 23rd year this fall. Among "Best Regional Universities in the West," LETU was ranked 27 which is up from 32 last year. In their collection of "Great Schools Great Prices" LETU was the ranked 4 in the West. U.S. News also included us at number 15 on their ranking of "Best Colleges for Veterans." Also, our engineering program moved up in the rankings; from 39 last year up to 31 this year in their ranking of "Best Engineering Programs in the United States."

SmartAsset included LETU in their rankings of the 100 top universities for starting salary of graduates. We were ranked number 2 among Texas private universities behind only Rice.

This summer, Online Christian Colleges included LETU in their "50 Most Beautiful Christian Campuses." We were number 19.

Increasingly, these college ratings are more about significant outcomes like graduate salaries and less about reputation or endowment. Taken together, one can see that LETU is a good choice for students who understand that college is an investment in one's future success.