On the Journey
In On the Journey, President Alan Cureton periodically shares reflections about education, faith, family, life and University of Northwestern. To share comments with Dr. Cureton about On the Journey you may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The concept of freedom is a bedrock of our republic. We reside in a country that exists under the guiding principle found in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal and are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Freedom is deeply embedded throughout the pages of U.S. history. Our country celebrates freedom through national holidays as a display of its importance to our country’s DNA. Each November, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving serve as reminders that freedom is profoundly interwoven into the tapestry of this nation. It is as natural to its citizens as breathing or walking.
People seek it. People desire it. People revere it. People lay down their lives to defend it.
More importantly, people come from all over the world for the privilege of living under the blanket of freedom.
What is freedom?
But what is freedom? And most strategically, as a follower of Christ, how does this concept of freedom intersect with a person’s faith? Can faith and freedom be symmetrical? Can true freedom exist without a solid faith foundation? Can one make a strong argument that the concept of freedom originates from a strong faith conviction?
As I study and understand Scripture, I believe that faith and freedom are one. And faith plays a significant role in the understanding and promotion of freedom. As an example, when, in faithful obedience, we seek to follow the two greatest commandments, we are creating the opportunity for faith and freedom to flourish. By loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself, we will be reflecting the essence of the combination of faith and freedom. Christ said, “Upon these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:40)
Where God's love flourishes
Faith and freedom thrive when Christ-like (agape) love is at the center. To love our neighbor as ourselves requires us to defend the weak, to speak for those who cannot speak, to feed those who are hungry, to clothe those who are naked, to ensure justice for those who experience injustice, to be merciful to those needing mercy, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, to stop evil when evil is present, to be willing to place ourselves in harm’s way so that others will live. When we do these things, God’s love flourishes.
At Northwestern, we will teach our students that faith and freedom come with responsibilities and obligations. We will teach our students to understand that faith and freedom come with boundaries. We will teach our students that faith and freedom come with a price, a price paid on the Cross. We will teach our students to know true freedom rests in faithful obedience to the One who gives freedom from sin.
In this season, I give thanks for the Cross and for our freedom in Christ—the true freedom that everyone seeks.
May 8, 2013
Becoming a University
It was my privilege today to announce to the Northwestern community that effective July 1, 2013, Northwestern College will become University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
Moving forward into the future under a new institution name, it is vital that we remember the most important Name under which we exist, that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is the very purpose of our existence.
As a university, the foundational principles of this institution and commitment to hold fast to our mission speak to our unwavering commitment to provide Christ-centered, biblically based education.
Today in chapel we also introduced new language we will be using to tell our story-a new storyline: equipping Christ-centered learners and leaders to invest in others and impact the world. This storyline can be succinctly remembered through four key words: Learn. Lead. Invest. Impact.
I know that the full story of Northwestern can only be told when people have the privilege of meeting you, our students, faculty and staff. The storyline we share as we communicate about Northwestern will serve as a bridge to invite people in and to want to know more.
Celebrating our core
This time of transition also provides an opportunity to reflect on our core—what remains the same regardless of what we call ourselves. Below are some thoughts that we are sharing today with you and other members of our community, including alumni, incoming students and donors.
Northwestern has changed its name before in response to God's leading and changing needs. I am excited as we usher in together the next stage of Northwestern. I am prayerful and confident that God has great things in store for the new University of Northwestern – St. Paul.
Finding Joy in Vocation and Calling
The word vocatio is Latin. The root meaning of vocatio is “summons.” In its plural form, the meaning becomes “to call.” In modern English language, vocatio is known as “vocation” and its dominant use is correctly interpreted as “one’s chosen profession or occupation.”
Historically, the word vocation meant “a divine call to religious life.” Combining the historical and contemporary uses of the word, one may conclude, as stated in the most recent edition of Webster’s Dictionary, vocatio/vocation has two distinct meanings: religious calling (historic) or occupation (contemporary).
Vocation and occupation united
At Northwestern, we believe the decision a student will make regarding their life calling or career choice is a spiritual decision combining both the historic and contemporary definitions. Vocation and occupation, as in the original Latin, were never meant to be two separate definitions, but one unified and holistic concept. Because the founders of Northwestern held dearly to religious interpretation of the word “vocation,” vocatio has always been a strategic part of our university’s seal (along with biblia [modern Latin “Bible”] and ars scientia [roughly translated “arts and sciences””]) as well as a key component of our mission statement.
As we seek to educate students using the Word of God as the foundational Truth in understanding all aspects of creation, we simultaneously seek to prepare them for their chosen vocation—a vocation in which they will serve effectively.
Finding a sweet spot
Our career or calling should not be drudgery, but pure joy! And one of life’s greatest joys is when we are in the sweet spot of God’s plan. Finding that sweet spot is not always an easy journey (and may take time beyond college), but it is attainable.
Early in my professional “vocation” I found my sweet spot. As a member of the student life staff at another college, we were struggling to communicate a clear and cohesive vision about the program, its role, purpose, and function. After listening to varying concerns and comments, I offered my viewpoint of what could be, explaining in detail how certain changes and wording could increase our effectiveness and broaden our impact. Upon building consensus, each member of the staff agreed with the proposed changes and, more importantly, the college president loved it. The plan was formed, implemented, and confirmed. Thirty years later, the model still remains at that institution. Shaping an institution’s current and future direction is something I enjoy doing. It is my sweet spot.
Being able to assess and identify specific gifts and talents while pursuing them with passion, diligence, and resolve is a delightful and energizing experience. That experience has the potential to broaden and deepen our view of creation and our understanding of how we can, individually and corporately, make a difference in our lives and in the lives of those we serve.
So, as a value of importance, we must be prepared to fulfill our vocatio effectively and with excellence. As I say to students frequently, the Lord does not call us to mediocrity. We must seek to give Him our highest and best.
No matter what you do in life, as it pertains to your vocatio, my challenge to you is to do it with zeal, joy, excellence, and faithfulness.
Telling a True Story
A lot of times when we think of marketing, we think of Madison Avenue, slick slogans and even deception. But at its core, good marketing is just telling the story of an organization. This year at Northwestern, we are focusing on some statements that we believe help convey the essence of who we are and what we do. No tricks. No deception.
One statement you may see on our website or in ads for Northwestern is “Come for a degree + leave with a clear vision for your life.” When I read this I can think of countless stories of this statement becoming a reality for our students. Julianna is one that comes quickly to mind.
She came from a great family. The foundation was set for her to have a successful collegiate experience. By all indications, she was ready for the rigor and challenges of academic life. But, Julianna Scheumann’05 wanted more than just a degree. Julianna wanted to make a difference, to blaze a new trail, to reflect God’s love to a new generation, to grow in her skills and talents so that she could serve with zeal and zest. For Julianna was driven by a sincere and personal desire to impact lives and influence people’s hearts and understanding of the true purpose in life. She wanted to do so in an environment that would not only stretch her, but stretch those to whom she served.
Throughout her Northwestern experience, Julianna took full advantage of opportunities to mature into a strong leader. Specifically, her role as a resident assistant was an excellent training ground, preparing for her future calling. She used the various concepts and theories about leadership the professors and student life staff members were teaching her to invest in the lives of the residents on her floor. She was not only learning about leadership theory; she was learning to be a leader.
Julianna knew she needed to capitalize on the things she learned during her Northwestern experience and assimilate them. She just needed an opportunity, a special opportunity to shape her vision. Fortunately, her professors knew just the right experience.
Path to a Fulbright
At the encouragement of her professors, Julianna applied for one of the most prestigious scholarship programs in the U.S., Fulbright Scholarship. Because of her talent, skills, gifts, and abilities coupled with God’s grace, she was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Scholarship. The Fulbright program only recognizes the best of our nation’s elite graduates. In their evaluation of Julianna, she was one. The year after her graduation from Northwestern, she lived in the country of Taiwan as a teacher, mentoring and loving students by investing in them professionally and personally, all the time reflecting the love and grace of Jesus. Even today you will find Julianna in the classroom of a multi-ethnic school setting here in the U.S., fulfilling her vision and dreams for life.
Northwestern is a place where dreams can come true and a vision for life can become reality. Just ask Julianna. It’s a place where dreams are refined, shaped, and birthed. It’s a place you come to get a degree and leave with a clear vision for your life—and that’s a true story.