"We open a new semester and we have a brief moment before all the busyness to think about what we do," Provost and Senior Vice President Steve Varvis, Ph.D., told faculty, students and staff January 14, 2015, in the Special Events Center on the main campus.

Learning is the central aspect of our work, Varvis said, adding that at FPU learning is for the good of the church and God and part of a long church tradition of academic study, writing and action that is often lost in today's rationalistic society. To illustrate the convocation title: "A Community of Learners," Varvis asked three faculty members to speak on what it means to learn and to know.

Ron Herms Ph.D., dean of the School of Humanities, Religion and Social Sciences

Herms started with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, 1959 sermon, "A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart."

To make a difference for God in the world, today's students and tomorrow's leaders need the discipline of a mind married with the compassion and justice of a tender heart, he said. This means being faithful when no one else is looking, inviting critical and creative thinking and modeling what it looks like to be compassionate and caring.

Learning is not squirreling yourself away, but reaching out to shape the next generation. "That's what we do here," Herms said, "we prepare for a lifetime of faithful wisdom and service."

Annie Fujikawa, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology

Fujikawa once thought learning was simply soaking up information and giving it back in papers and examinations. "I thought I was learning, but I wasn't," she said. "I wasn't open."

In graduate school came the class that, by its difficulty, made her examine her assumptions. "I came to see that learning really required all of me. Really learning meant I needed to be open to the truth of myself," Fujikawa said.

She learned to be God's hands and feet by building a community among fellow graduate students that learned together. "It was painful and beautiful and awful and wonderful at the same time," Fujikawa said.

Eric Davis, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry

Whether students just completed their first semester or are preparing for their final one, "you are not the same person you were when you got here—and that's exactly how it should be," Davis said.

Davis asked where learning happens—in class, studying, talking with friends, playing Frisbee? What about entering a professor's office with a question and ending up in an unexpected conversation? "The answer to each and every one of these is yes," he said.

Learning is a state of mind, a willingness to allow yourself to be changed. "It's a willingness to be open to the still small voice of God," Davis said.


Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations