Conference connects faith, vocation
By Ester Khachatryan, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, April 30, 2012
In an effort to simultaneously foster conversations about the interaction between faith and vocation and connect students to alumni mentors, The Dartmouth Apologia — the College’s journal for Christian thought — and the Eleazar Wheelock Society co-sponsored the third annual Wheelock Conference at the Tuck School of Business on April 28.
The conference brought together 350 alumni, students, faculty and community members for a full day of panel discussions and presentations by prominent alumni that allowed students to explore Christian perspectives through intellectual inquiry, civility and authenticity, conference director Andrew Schuman ’10 said.
“Faith and reason are fundamental to what we each bring to the table, so discovering the way to do this well and with respect is essential to the life of our campus,” Provost Carol Folt said in her opening address at the conference.
Peter Blair ’12, who moderated a conference panel on faith and the law, spoke about the importance of reconciling faith, reason and vocation in today’s world.
“The Wheelock Conference brings back alums who have brought the intellectual resources of the Christian tradition to bear on the their vocations,” Blair said. “The conference therefore helps to show students what faith and reason look like together embodied in a life of vocation.”
Frank Young, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, a physician and ordained minister, delivered the keynote address of the conference. Young spoke about grief and the way in which people can transform the struggles in their lives into opportunities for drawing closer to God.
“Trust in God in everything that you do,” Young said. “Not just on Sunday and not just when you’re with a bunch of Christians using buzz words, but in all aspects of your life.”
Young explained that his vocation makes him a “physician of suffering people” who are suffering both physically and spiritually. He urged the audience to “strive to be willing and ready to serve the suffering.”
Following the keynote address, conference attendees were given the opportunity to choose among different panels that focused on faith in conjunction with business, medicine, global development, vocational ministry, law, government, science, public health and the environment.
The “Faith and Global Development” panel session featured Joyce Sackey ’85, founder of the Foundation for African Relief, and Kadita Tshibaka ’70, former CEO of Opportunity International. Opportunity International is a Christian non-profit microfinance organization that provides loans, insurance programs and other financial assistance to impoverished people worldwide. The organization has helped five million people in 24 countries lift themselves out of poverty, according to Tshibaka.
Tshibaka identified poor governance and corrupt leadership in developing countries as major causes of the sometimes unsatisfactory effects that foreign aid provides.
“We need to develop programs that assist people to lift themselves up out of poverty,” Tshibaka said. “Not handouts, but hand-up.”
In a panel discussion about faith and government, CEO of the national security consulting firm Mission Sync LLC and reserve Navy SEAL Commander Louis Tucker ’95 spoke about God’s role in his decision to work in government.
Tucker said that the Judeo-Christian ethic provides for the freedom of religion upheld in the United States Constitution. He added that the freedom extends to all religions and that coercion was never a method of evangelization according to scripture.
Tucker said he was concerned by how the Constitution’s original intent to separate the institution of the church and the state has transformed in modern politics into a separation of God and state. Tucker said that “faith and God undergird our government.”
Aside from panel discussions, audience members heard presentations from former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp ’81, pastor Chris Goulard ’89 and Tuck School of Business School professor Gregg Fairbrother ’76.
Brendan Woods ’13, who is involved with Aquinas House and is the editor-in-chief of The Apologia, said he was inspired by the Dartmouth alumni willing to engage with students through the conference.
“The fact that they were able to achieve such great success while staying true to their Christian beliefs and values was even more inspiring, and I appreciated the chance to learn how they were able to achieve that,” Woods said.
The conference gave students the opportunity to connect with alumni through different internship opportunities specifically offered to Dartmouth students. Caitlin Reiner ’06, former project manager with the Lwala Community Alliance, said it is important for the organization founders to engage Dartmouth students in their efforts.
“Alumni have much to offer students in the way of experience and how to live as a Christian beyond college, especially as students leave their tightly knit Christian fellowships and communities for the wider world,” Reiner said.
As the founder and CEO of First Rate, a leading provider of performance measurement solutions, David Stone ’79 said he also wants to engage students through his organization.
“Our company tries to incorporate faith into the workplace as a corporate model,” Stone said. “We wanted to give students an exposure to a very different corporate experience that they might have anywhere else in America or the world for that matter.”
Stone founded First Rate with his wife in 1991 in their living room in 1991, and it grew into a multi-million dollar company. First Rate employs a full-time chaplain and encourages employees to “bring their faith to work.”
Schuman said the Wheelock Conference leadership plans to sponsor other forums in which students can explore Christianity.
“I hope students will walk away with a better understanding of Christianity as a worldview that provides a foundation for integrating faith, learning and life in the modern world,” Schuman said.
The Wheelock Conference is part of a larger movement, developed in the Dartmouth student and alumni community in the past decade, that has fostered an upsurge in integrating Judeo-Christian values with a liberal arts education. In 2006, Schuman and like-minded freshmen started The Apologia, a student-run journal of Christian thought that seeks to integrate faith and reason in an academic setting.
In 2009, a group of alumni founded the Eleazar Wheelock Society, which connects alumni, students and faculty to develop “robust ethical value systems, stimulate constructive discussion among faiths and share Christian perspectives,” according to the institute’s website.
The Eleazar Wheelock Society helped found the Waterman Institute in 2010, which hosts non-accredited seminar courses on Christian topics. The institute was founded through the efforts of students, faculty and campus ministries after most Christian-oriented in the academic various departments on campus courses were discontinued, Christopher Hauser ’14 said.
Following The Apologia’s success in inspiring colleges around the country to found similar journals, former editors, including Blair, decided to found Fare Forward, a non-partisan and ecumenical journal of cultural commentary from a Christian perspective.
“The magazine hopes to further discourse about faith, reason and vocation among recent college alumni, drawing on the resources of the Christian tradition to enrich our generation’s dialogue around these issues,” Blair said.
Founded in the spring of 2012, Fare Forward engages writers from across the Ivy League and other colleges to write for young adults around the country.
Faith and spirituality are explored in other areas of campus, including the Tucker Foundation, diverse college ministries and other academic centers, Folt said.
Blair is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.