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Earthkeeping Across the Curriculum: Au Sable Celebrates 2016 Academic Council

Oct 04, 2016

This year’s Au Sable Academic Council; celebrated each year on Au Sable’s Great Lakes (Michigan) Campus, explored the theme “Earthkeeping Across the Curriculum: Broadening the Appeal of Environmental Studies in the Christian Liberal Arts College.” A record number of 40 participants representing 31 different colleges and universities assembled to participate.

Dr. John Wood, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at The King’s University (Alberta), and Rachel Lamb, former National Spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA) and Flagship Fellow at the University of Maryland, led participants through sessions explaining the elements needed to construct programs in environmental study and environmental science that would generate sustainable, growing enrollment, vocational identity and success, and a deep sense of Christian vocational calling in students and graduates. Dr. Fred Van Dyke, Au Sable’s Executive Director, shared Au Sable’s new pamphlet, “Building a College Environmental Program,” explaining six essential elements and characteristics of strong environmental programs at Christian colleges. Every Participant received a copy. Dr. David Foster, Professor of Biology at Messiah College (Pennsylvania), Chair of the Council, and Chair of the Au Sable Board of Trustees, led enthusiastic sessions of morning worship which opened each session. Participants engaged in the work of creating a new, more engaging Participation Agreement to be used between Au Sable and its participating colleges. They provided guidance and input for Au Sable’s increased emphasis on program development in environmental study, and supported, by Advisory Recommendation, a change in Au Sable’s College Academic Program Class Schedule to create a more “Sabbath-centered” week on most campuses in most sessions. Classes will now be meeting from Tuesday through Saturday instead of Monday through Friday.

Dr. Fred Van Dyke, Au Sable’s Executive Director, noted, “We’re increasingly blessed with a growing number of representatives who bring high levels of engagement and integrity to our work at the Institute, as well as many students. Through them, we’re now beginning to form agreements that really work and benefit everyone. And we’re also beginning to make a real difference in helping them grow and develop environmental and sustainability programs at their own schools that will be able to consistently produce graduates who will make a difference in creation care.”

Dr. Brian Keas, Au Sable’s new Director of Educational Development, was impressed by the spirit of worship and community throughout the weekend as he attended his first Council Meeting.  “I appreciated the many formal and informal discussions by representatives over the weekend that highlighted their care and support for each other as stewards of creation.  With representatives ranging from those just a few weeks into a faculty position to those nearing retirement, the sharing that occurred during the Council provided everyone with renewed energy and ideas to bring back to their campuses.  Representatives are the leaders in environmental stewardship at their institutions and I look forward to seeing the fruits of this weekend as they continue to faithfully engage their students and communities in creation care."

Eric Nord of Greenville University in Illinois teaches Au Sable’s Forest Ecology course at the Pacific Rim Campus and attended the Academic Advisory Council. Following the meeting,he shared, “I am inspired by time spent in the presence of this group of students of Creation, they are committed to training and equipping a generation of Christian Creation stewards. My own commitments to love the Creator and study and care for the creation are renewed.”

With similar sentiments, Dr. Michael Mooring of San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University said, “I always leave the Au Sable Institute with a renewed sense of "why" I do what I do.  As the only field biologist at my school, it is easy to feel like I'm on my own in an ocean of molecular biologists and pre-health students.  Being with colleagues that have similar roles at similar types of institutions reminds me that I am not alone in the mission to share Christ through His Creation!”

The participation of Au Sable’s Faculty Representatives is critical to the Institute, not only at the Academic Council but throughout the year. Au Sable looks forward to another great year of engagement with its Participating Colleges, and an even bigger crowd at next year’s Academic Council!