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Record Representation: Faculty Reps Gather for Academic Council on Developing Student Leaders

Oct 09, 2017

On September 29th and 30th, 2017, 45 participants representing 38 colleges, universities, and other educational institutions gathered at Au Sable’s Great Lakes Campus (Michigan) for Au Sable’s annual Academic Council, this year dedicated to the theme of “Developing Leadership in All Our Students and Ourselves – Discipling Leaders in Creation Care.” The Academic Council is a gathering of faculty from Au Sable’s Participating Colleges who are the designated Faculty Representatives of the Institute on their own campus. With the aid of distinguished guest speakers and Au Sable staff, representatives at this year’s Council learned practical knowledge and skills about how to identify and mentor student leaders, how to work effectively with under-prepared students and move them toward becoming effective leaders, and how to work more effectively with Au Sable’s curriculum in their own environmental programs, including how to use Au Sable in student leadership development.

Arriving from 16 US states, three Canadian provinces, and the country of Costa Rica, representatives first heard from Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, National Spokesperson for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), an organization dedicated to leadership development in college students designated as “Climate Fellows” who work with YECA to stimulate social and political action on climate change. After Kyle, representatives enjoyed the presentation of Dr. Camellia Okpodu of Norfolk State University, an expert on working with underprepared students, a group that makes up an increasing number of individuals on most college campuses today. Au Sable’s Executive Director, Dr. Fred Van Dyke, also contributed by helping representatives both define and identify leadership qualities in students based on his successful program of student leadership development in creation care in his previous position at Wheaton College (Illinois). Breakout discussion sections that followed each presentation were as vigorous and informative as the presentations themselves. As Faculty Representative Dr. Rob Keys, from Cornerstone University, Michigan, noted, “The Au Sable Academic Council is a great time to recharge, reflect and share ideas with others who are passionate about Creation Care. The opportunity to build skills in the leadership development of our students was enlightening and timely.” Representative Dr. Mike Mooring, from Point Loma Nazarene University (California), who had made one of the longest trips of any representative to attend, explained the reason he always looks forward to the annual Council. “Every year I leave the Au Sable AAC meeting excited, encouraged, and renewed in the ongoing task of bringing a creation care perspective into our Environmental Science program. Fred is always very intentional about integrating a practical professional development workshop into the meeting to equip us holistically to improve our institutional programs. Furthermore, there is no better way to be encouraged than to gather and break bread with my colleagues from across the country who teach at similar institutions under similar constraints, sharing our successes and challenges and trust in Jesus. What a great weekend!”

To appreciate Au Sable’s field-intensive, place-based approach to learning, representatives spent time in the field seeing sites used in Au Sable’s ongoing undergraduate research program involving reforestation of oil pads, restoration of an extirpated fish formerly native to Michigan, the Arctic grayling, and habitat enhancement for Michigan’s rarest bird, the Kirtland’s warbler. But days at the Council are not only about teaching, discussion, and presentation. They are about community, as Faculty Representatives enjoy relationships established in past years with other representatives, and form new ones. As Dr. Edward Berkelaar, Faculty Representative of Redeemer University College (Ontario) explained, "I really enjoy connecting with fellow representatives from other places – some new and some whom I’ve gotten to know in previous years. It is so valuable to meet folks with a shared mission so we can compare notes and strategies to improve our own programs and students’ experiences in our home institutions. I leave these annual meetings energized to continue the work I am called to do.”

This year’s Council is over, but its work and relationships will lay the foundation for students from throughout North America to attend Au Sable in 2018. Thanks to Au Sable’s Faculty Representatives, students on every campus will learn what Au Sable has to offer them as they pursue their own studies in caring for God’s good creation.