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2018 Au Sable Grad Fellows Retreat

Jan 25, 2018

January 12-14, was the 2018 Au Sable Graduate Fellows Retreat, an annual gathering of Christian Master’s and Ph.D. students from major research universities who have been selected to be members of the Graduate Fellows program here at Au Sable, because of their exceptional abilities, interests, and leadership potential in environmental stewardship.

“It is Important to bring these students together each year for fellowship and learning,” said Dr. Rolf Bouma, the director of the Center for Faith and Scholarship at the University of Michigan, who serves as the Graduate Fellows Coordinator at Au Sable. “We strive to create a collegial atmosphere and establish professional connections that will last beyond graduate school.”

Sixteen of the fellows met in northern Michigan this past weekend at the Great Lakes campus of the Au Sable Institute, coming from Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University and University of Maryland. During their time together, the students discussed the integration of science and Christian faith in “Distinctively Christian: Dreamweavers or Programmers,” and “Distinctively Christian: Offensive, Irrelevant or Integral” seminar sessions led by Dr. Rolf Bouma. In these sessions of reading, presentation, and discussion, Fellows explored possible pathways toward the meaningful presentation of Christian ideas in the setting of a secular university, as well as constructive ways to address both personal and institutional needs at their schools in ways that promoted the application of Christian concepts to current conditions and problems. These included development of the outline of a presentation for an academic department or government scientific agency that promoted engagement with Christian ideas and faith-based organizations to solve problems related to environmental stewardship. Throughout the weekend the fellows also enjoyed cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and Sunday morning worship together at the Institute.

“The Grad Fellows Retreat at Au Sable each winter is always a breath of fresh air,” explained Steve Roels, a doctoral student in the Department of Zoology at Michigan State University. “The days are short, the holiday haze is still lifting, and the grind of another semester is underway. It’s the perfect time to remind ourselves as a community what we care about and why.”

In addition to the annual retreat, each student in the Grad Fellows program receives a stipend to purchase books and attend educational events focused on their field of study. 

“The Grad Fellows Program has had a disproportionately important effect on Christian witness in scientific higher education,” noted Dr. Fred Van Dyke, Au Sable’s Executive Director, who spent the weekend with the Grad Fellows in their presentations, recreation, meals, and worship. “Today, many of the Faculty Representatives who represent Au Sable on the campuses of Christian colleges and universities are former grad fellows. Many current teachers among Au Sable’s own faculty are former Au Sable Grad Fellows, and many Au Sable alumni now actively working and making a difference in conservation are former Grad Fellows. This has been a program that has made a difference.”

Thank you, Au Sable Grad Fellows, for spending time with us at the Institute again this January. We look forward to seeing you again next year!