November 6, 2023
Study with Godly Scholars
“We keep in contact with all of them,” Jen Carlson told me in a recent interview. I was talking with Jen and Joe Carlson about the professors at New Saint Andrews College. The Carlsons, who both graduated in 2005, spoke about the way the professors mentored them and cared for them during their time at the college. The Carlsons said that twenty years after graduating, they still have a close relationship with the NSA professors.
Jen and Joe specifically mentioned Dr. Gordon Wilson. They laughed as they shared that they had struggled in one of Dr. Wilson's science classes. They expressed their gratitude for the knowledge they gained and the kindness and mercy shown to them by Dr. Wilson.
Dr. Wilson, who teaches Natural History at NSA, completed his dissertation research on the reproductive ecology of the Eastern Box Turtle. He is well known for his documentary series The Riot and the Dance. He has written two books: A Different Shade of Green and Darwin’s Sandcastle.
Joe said about Dr. Wilson: “He’s one of the professors that we have stayed close to over the years. And he has been so cheerful and kind and gracious towards us and has been a real blessing.”
Jen also mentioned Dr. Merkle and how he and his wife, Bekah, have been an encouragement as well. President Ben Merkle holds a DPhil from Oxford University, England. He has published two books: The White Horse King and Defending the Trinity in the Reformed Palatinate. The relationship with these professors has made a tremendous impact on the Carlsons. At NSA, the professors are high-caliber scholars who are strong in their disciplines. The professors also engage with their students, mentoring them in a tight-knit community. This dynamic of scholarly teachers who work closely with undergraduate students is a unique feature of the liberal arts program at NSA.
In academia, it's typical for top professors to spend minimal time teaching undergraduates in the classroom. Instead, graduate students or part-time adjunct faculty often teach these classes. Charles Sykes, in his book Fail U, writes about this absent professoriate, noting that in 2011, the number of part-time faculty had risen to about 70%. These part-time teachers are mere placeholders for the more knowledgeable professors outside the classroom. Sykes says the central issue in undergraduate programs is whether the faculty are “available to students.” Most scholarly professors are not in the classroom, meaning “undergraduates are treated like orphans of higher education.”
Undergraduates are not orphans at NSA; they are mentored by professors skilled in their academic discipline.
During my conversation with Kaleb Trotter, a graduate of the class of 2012, he emphasized the significance of having godly Christian professors. He said, “Why would you trust a pagan to train you in how your mind works when they think your mind exploded into existence from nothing?” Christian students in college need mentors who know the creator of the universe and how He has made the world. Seeing the Christian worldview in an academic context shows undergraduate students how to live faithfully under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Kaleb added, “Don’t trust true education to people who hate your God.”
The teachers at NSA love God, and they love their students. Professors are active in the local church, and they set a strong example for students about what it means to be Christians in the academic world.
“My relationships with my professors were the most impactful for me,” Danny Bradley told me. He graduated from NSA in 2020. In my conversation with Danny, he explained how he was shaped by seeing professors in various contexts, both in the classroom and outside the classroom. These examples showed him how the teachers connected their knowledge to their lives. They lived out what they taught.
For students looking to gain a transformative education, studying closely with scholarly professors is vital. The teachers at NSA are present and engaged with their students. This active mentoring means students get to know these excellent scholars, imitating the examples they set for life, both in college and beyond college.
- Charles Sykes, Fail U: The False Promise of Higher Education, 49.
- Charles Sykes, Fail U: The False Promise of Higher Education, 52.