I have a pretty great gig. Though I began just 8 months ago, my work on the religion faculty at Concordia College has already allowed me some amazing opportunities. The permission I have to innovate is significant, support from my colleagues immense.
I could—and perhaps should—have blogged two weeks ago about a campus visit and public lecture by Paul Raushenbush, senior religion editor at the Huffington Post. I could—and perhaps should—have blogged last week about the campus visit and slew of sessions led by Dan Lee, VP for external relations at Lutheran World Relief with whom I’m partnering on several exciting ventures in the coming years.
Today, though, here’s a quick reflection on an event I organized with our associate campus pastor, Elly McHan. Both of us, as part of our portfolios, work to help create a campus of vocational discernment at Concordia. Last night we did so in a creative, novel, and fun-filled way (and, again, I’m so grateful to be in a community that helps make this sort of event possible).
Who BREWs Best? was an academic debate between five faculty persons from different disciplines. It was modeled, very loosely, on other campus debate formats but made unique to Concordia because of the topic.
BREWing, is an acronym known only to Cobbers (well, the sort of brewing we’re speaking of, at least). Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World (BREW) is the theme of our core curriculum. So students, being students, often speak of BREWing as a verb, meaning, “some sort of action for social justice in the world.” The debate was on the somewhat ridiculous, but fun, question: “Which academic discipline helps students BREW best?”
It was a fantastic night of verbal sparring, mutual support, jokes, and academic rigor (if I do say so myself). The conversation on Twitter was fast and furious, so I’ve put a link to the Storify accounting below:
Here’s a few pieces about which I’m particularly pleased:
- Students saw faculty, outside the classroom, speaking on issues close to their heart and interacting with one another with collegiality, quick wit, and humor.
- Even as faculty made arguments for their own discipline, their support and appreciation for other disciplines was apparent. As I said in the introduction: “It was more Mr. Rogers than Hunger Games.”
- The world into which we send students to engage responsibility is necessarily interdisciplinary, but academic conversations can easily become stuck in one field. Having a panel of five faculty from across the college emphasized, by their very presence, the importance of broadmindedness.
- It’s fun—even important—to have a little debate every once in a while. I reject the Midwestern sensibility, even as it makes me most comfortable, that open debate and public disagreement should be stifled or ironed over.
- Finally, college life is a wonderful time to ask big questions: How should I live responsibly? What gifts and skills do I have? What does God have to do with them? Who BREWs Best? was a time, I hope, to model deep, big question-asking.
We playfully described the event as the “first annual, best ever” Who BREWs Best? debate. If students’ initial reactions are any indication, we’ll probably plan another for next year. Oh, and who won? Students voted by text message or by a shortlink on their phones (using PollEverywhere.com). The 2013, Who BREWs Best? winner is….Dr. Dawn Duncan, Professor of English!
P.S. When a recording of the event is posted online, I’ll link to it here.